Mobiserve forecasts growth from Africa's mobile market

Telecoms services provider also sees potential in India

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Mobiserve, a telecommunications services provider owned by two UAE firms, is tipping a 15 per cent boost in revenues this year as it pushes its business further into Africa, its chief executive says. Mobiserve specialises in building and maintaining telecoms infrastructure such as mobile phone towers, as well as managing mobile networks for operators across the Middle East and Africa.

The company also maintains a call centre and customer billing service for its African clients. It reported revenues of US$150 million (Dh550.9m) last year, a decline of about 6 per cent from the year before, said Sameh Atalla, the chief executive. "We're looking for 2010 to beat our numbers from 2009 by trying to be cost efficient," Mr Atalla said. "Our forecast now is that we will see revenues grow by as much as 15 per cent."

There has been a growing trend in the telecoms sector to outsourcing infrastructure management as operators look to cut costs in highly competitive markets such as Africa and India. The installation of four undersea cables in East Africa by the end of the year is also expected to provide a boom to the continent's telecoms outsourcing. In January last year, Orascom Telecom sold Mobiserve to Invest AD, the investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, for $180m. Delta Partners, a telecoms consultancy based in Dubai, also holds a 10 per cent stake in Mobiserve.

Since then, the company has opened offices in Kenya and Morocco to explore opportunities in Africa, Mr Atalla said. "Definitely we will keep expanding in Africa," he said. "India is also on our list, as is Libya and Nigeria. We look where there is opportunity and where is the need." Mr Atalla said that he intended to speak to Bharti Airtel after the Indian telecoms operator acquires the sub-Saharan Africa assets of Zain, sometime in the next few months.

"It's premature to talk to them right now, but once the deal is concluded we will go to them and tell them we have a unique service they can benefit from," he said. In April, Bharti Airtel began soliciting bids to outsource the operations it will acquire from Zain, which industry observers estimate are worth more than $1 billion. Companies such as Mobiserve would either bid directly for those contracts or work as a subcontractor.