By Matt Smith
DUBAI, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Bahrain Telecommunications Co
(Batelco) wants to increase its holdings in affiliate
firms, its chief executive said, as the former monopoly seeks to
maximize its control and the returns from the operations.
This would follow similar moves by other Gulf
state-controlled operators, which have sought to either take
majority control of foreign units or reduce their holdings.
Larger rival Qatar Telecom (Qtel) this year agreed
to pay about $3.3 billion upping its stakes in Kuwait's Wataniya
and Iraq's Asiacell, while Etisalat of the
United Arab Emirates sold a 9.1 percent stake in Indonesia's PT
XL Axiata in September.
"If opportunities such as what Qtel has done with Wataniya
come along with any of our portfolio holdings, of course we will
look at it favourably," Sheikh Mohamed Isa al-Khalifa, Batelco
group chief executive, told reporters on the sidelines of a
conference in Dubai.
"It's always important for us to be able to consolidate a
business and not to hold a minority stake."
Batelco owns Jordanian operator Umniah, 27 percent of Yemeni
mobile firm Sabafon and minority stakes in internet providers in
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and it is also active in Egypt.
It is in talks with Cable & Wireless Communications
to buy its assets in Monaco and a host of island nations, a deal
potentially worth around $1 billion.
"What we want is to go into a brownfield business, not a
greenfield as we did before," said Sheikh Mohamed.
Batelco in February agreed to sell its 43 percent stake in
Indian affiliate S Tel to its local partner for $175 million
after the operator was stripped of its licences in a corruption
probe. The deal was due to be completed in the fourth quarter.
"Our agreement is for the money to be received by October
31, so we've still got a few days to go and we're looking
forward to receiving our money," Sheikh Mohamed said, adding
Batelco was keen on re-entering India.
"The problem with India is that there's no clarity right now
on how the market is going to develop - we would like to be
there, but at the right price," he said.
(Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)