February 19, 2008 / 12:57 PM / 12 years ago

UPDATE 1-Omantel buys Pakistan's Worldcall in $193 mln deal

(Add comments from Omantel CEO, background)

By Saleh al-Shaibany

MUSCAT, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Oman Telecommunications Co OTL.OM (Omantel) said it paid $193 million for a controlling stake in Pakistan’s Worldcall Telecom WTCL.KA, its biggest foreign investment so far as competition at home intensifies.

The purchase, which marks Omantel’s entry to the world’s sixth most-populous nation, will add between 3 percent and 7 percent to profit next year, Omantel Chief Executive Officer Mohammed al-Wohaibi told reporters in the Omani capital, Muscat.

State-controlled Omantel said last May it was in talks to buy a Pakistan telecom operator, identifying Worldcall the following month. [ID:nL23227125] [ID:nL24491922]

The company agreed to buy 488.8 million shares equivalent to 60 percent of Worldcall and will buy another 5 percent through the Pakistani stock market .KSE, it said in a statement late on Monday.

“Entering the Pakistani market is important because it is one of the markets that has the fastest growth rates due to the dense population and low penetration levels in several telecommunication services,” Wohaibi said in the statement.

When initially agreed last year, the 60 percent stake was going to cost $204 million, but it was lower now because the Pakistani rupee was weaker against the dollar, Omantel said.

“We are not worried about the political situation,” Wohaibi told reporters about Pakistan. “This transaction is a long-term investment for the future ... we don’t feel that those disturbances have any long-term impact.”

Worldcall posted a $10 million profit in the year to June 30 on revenue of $70 million, which it expects to boost by 20 percent this fiscal year.

The purchase gives Omantel access to Sri Lanka where Worldcall owns 70.65 percent of a unit. It will finance the acquisition entirely through debt, Wohaibi said.

Omantel said in November its acquisition of Worldcall would boost profit by as much as 14 percent from next year. [ID:nL11173467]

Pakistan has a population of 169 million compared with Oman’s 2.5 million.

Shares of Omantel closed up 0.21 percent on Tuesday. They have risen more than 10 percent this year, more than the index’s .MSI near 9 percent gain. (Additional reporting by Ola Galal in Dubai; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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