October 25, 2010 / 1:26 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Saudi Telecom to bid for Syrian mobile licence

* Saudi Telecom interested in Syria mobile licence

* Syria among few regional markets with low penetration

(Adds details, background)

RIYADH, Oct 25 (Reuters) - State-owned Saudi Telecom (STC) 7010.SE is interested in bidding for a mobile licence in Syria, one of the few countries in the region with low mobile penetration and promising growth chances, it said on Monday.

Last month, Syria tendered to sell a third mobile operator licence, with a deadline for submitting a prequalification application expiring on Nov. 14.

STC, which made its expression of interest in a statement on the Saudi bourse website, is facing increasing competition from Mobily 7020.SE and more recently Zain Saudi 7030.SE in its home market, the biggest Arab economy.

Turkey’s Turkcell (TCELL.IS) and Kuwait’s Zain (ZAIN.KW) have said they were interested in Syria, which has a population of 20 million people and about 7 million mobile phone users.

An industry source has told Reuters that STC 7010.SE could be among the strongest contenders, especially after ties between the Damascus government and Riyadh improved last year.

The two current cellphone operators in Syria are South Arica’s MTN (MTNJ.J) and Syriatel, which is mostly owned by Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Will Waterman)

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