Bahrain's Batelco to take control of Kuwaiti Internet firm

Thu Feb 20, 2014 2:39am EST

* Batelco to buy further 46 pct stake in Qualitynet

* Deal will raise Batelco's holding to 90 pct

* Qualitynet is Kuwait's top fixed-line Internet provider

By Matt Smith

DUBAI, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Bahrain Telecommunications (Batelco) will take majority control of Kuwait's Qualitynet after agreeing to double its stake in the Internet provider, Batelco said on Thursday.

Batelco will buy 46 percent of Qualitynet from Ali al-Ghanim & Sons for an undisclosed fee, raising the Bahraini firm's holding to 90 percent from 44 percent previously. The deal will likely be concluded in March, a company statement said.

Kuwait's Ministry of Communications ultimately owns and operates the country's fixed-line infrastructure, with about four major Internet service providers including Qualitynet paying the government to use it.

Qualitynet's 2013 revenue was 31.3 million dinars ($83.0 million), down 8.9 percent from 2012, which provided Batelco with a profit of 2.41 million dinars, the latter's annual report shows.

As of September 2012, Qualitynet claimed a 45 percent share of Kuwait's fixed-line Internet market, which operates largely on a copper-based network.

The lack of widespread fibre connectivity has led many Kuwaiti residents to opt instead for mobile Internet provided by the country's three mobile operators: Zain, Saudi Telecom Co affiliate Viva and Wataniya, a subsidiary of Qatar's Ooredoo.

($1 = 0.3770 Bahraini dinars) (Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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