Pakistan Telecom's bid for rival Warid fails on price

Wed Mar 5, 2014 11:48am EST

* Warid Telecom's owner Abu Dhabi Group says talks end

* Abu Dhabi Group says failed to agree price with PTCL

* Deal would have created Pakistan's largest mobile operator

By Matt Smith

DUBAI, March 5 (Reuters) - Pakistan Telecommunication Co's (PTCL) bid for rival Warid Telecom, which would have created Pakistan's largest mobile operator, has failed after the two groups could not agree a price.

Abu Dhabi Group, a privately-held conglomerate, said on Wednesday it had ended talks with PTCL, more than five months after the latter submitted an offer.

"The on-going discussions between Abu Dhabi Group and PTCL for the merger and acquisition of Warid Telecom Pakistan have been called off," Abu Dhabi Group said in an emailed statement.

"The decision has been taken by the shareholders of Warid Telecom since an agreement could not be reached on the desired valuation for the company."

PTCL had hoped to lead consolidation of Pakistan's mobile sector where a weak economy, stagnating subscriber growth and stiff competition have pressured margins.

PTCL and parent firm Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, which owns a 23 percent stake, did not respond to requests for comment.

PTCL was Pakistan's sole fixed line provider before the country's telecom sector was deregulated.

There are now five mobile operators - PTCL unit Ufone is ranked third with 25 million subscriptions and a 19 percent market share, while Warid's 12.9 million subscriptions make it the smallest operator.

Had Ufone merged with Warid the new entity would have been the largest operator, overtaking current market leader Mobilink, a unit of Cairo-listed Global Telecom.

Abu Dhabi Group has investments in various sectors including financial services, communications and energy, according to its website. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak al-Nahayan, a senior member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family, heads the group. (Reporting by Matt Smith; editing by Jane Merriman)