Abu Dhabi’s Etisalat bids for mobile licence in Oman

Saudi Telecom and Kuwait’s Zain have already announced bids for the licence.

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Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat has become the latest telecoms operator to throw its hat into the ring to become Oman’s third mobile operator, in the first mobile auction in the Middle East for eight years.

“This bid is in line with Etisalat Group’s expansion strategy considering the market potential and similarities, footprint proximity to our core market, and likely synergies,” the operator said in a statement on the Abu Dhabi stock exchange on Wednesday morning.

Saudi Telecom and Kuwait’s Zain have already announced bids for the licence. Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) will announce a list of qualified bidders in August.

Qatar’s Ooredoo launched Oman’s second mobile operator, at the time branded as ‘Nawras’, in 2004, breaking the monopoly of state-owned Oman Mobile.

The country also has three mobile virtual network operators – Friendi, Renna and TeO – offering services using the infrastructure of Oman Mobile and Ooredoo.

“Oman is of course adjacent to Etisalat’s home market of the UAE, and there are extensive cultural, social, economic and physical links between the two countries,” said Matthew Reed, a Dubai-based analyst with the consultancy Ovum.

“The Omani telecoms market offers reasonable growth prospects, particularly in data and broadband. However, mobile penetration is already high in Oman, with the country having a mobile penetration rate of about 148% at end-2016.”

The tender for Oman’s third operating licence, launched by the TRA in November, is the first “greenfield” telecoms licence to be offered in the Arabian Gulf since the award of Bahrain’s third mobile license to Saudi Telecom in 2009.

Etisalat’s last licence win came in Egypt in 2006, when it was awarded the country’s third mobile operating licence for US$2.9 billion.

The operator’s last significant footprint expansion occurred in 2014, when it completed the acquisition of a €4bn acquisition of a majority stake in Maroc Telecom.

Etisalat’s shares finsihed up 0.85 per cent to Dh17.7.