Etisalat says affiliate interested in Pakistan mobile operator

DUBAI, July 29 Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:33am EDT

DUBAI, July 29 (Reuters) - Etisalat, the Gulf's biggest telecommunications operator, said on Monday that its affiliate Pakistan Telecommunication Co Ltd (PTCL) had expressed interest in mobile operator Warid Telecom.

Warid, Pakistan's smallest operator, has been put on the block by its Abu Dhabi owners in a sale likely to fetch up to $1 billion, Reuters reported last month. Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Etisalat had hired Goldman Sachs Inc to advise on a potential bid for Warid.

Etisalat holds a 26 percent stake in PTCL and also has management control of the business in Pakistan.

"Etisalat Group holds a stake in PTCL with managerial control and PTCL has expressed an interest in Warid Telecom. Etisalat Group cannot offer further comment and will not comment on speculation regarding Warid Telecom," Etisalat's spokesman Ahmed bin Ali said in an emailed statement.

Pakistan's mobile telecommunications sector has five operators and is ripe for consolidation after a period when a troubled economy, increasingly high levels of market penetration and stiff competition has forced companies' margins lower. (Reporting by Dinesh Nair; Editing by Andrew Torchia)