Bahrain telecom operator defers India foray

October 28th, 2008 - 5:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Oct 28 (IANS) Bahrain’s leading telecom services provider Batelco is for the moment putting off its plans to enter into the booming Indian market.The company’s chief executive Peter Kaliarapoulos, briefing the local media on quarterly results, said though Batelco was in the process of acquiring a licence in India, it was not in a hurry.

“The asking price is too much and we do not want to invest that much,” reports quoted Kaliarapoulos as saying.

“We believe we are in a good position to invest in India because the mobile penetration is still quite low, but we are not willing to buy at the price we are being quoted,” he said.

Batelco has put aside $2 billion for investments in India and Africa.

“Indian and African markets still have huge potential of growth, especially in the mobile telephony. These markets have been earmarked by Batelco as the best business opportunity for its expansion plan,” the chief executive said.

Thirty six percent of Batelco’s total revenues and 20 percent of its profit stream come from its overseas operations.

The Bahrain Stock Exchange-listed Batelco posted a record net profit of 78.3 million Bahraini dinars ($207.7 million) in the third quarter of 2008 on a turnover of 245.4 million Bahraini dinars ($650.9 million).

Established in 1981 as a Bahraini shareholding company, Batelco’s major shareholders include the Bahrain government, quasi-government institutions, financial and commercial organisations, and private Bahraini and Gulf-based investors.

These parties together hold 80 percent of Batelco, while British telecom operator Cable and Wireless holds the remaining 20 percent.

Kaliarapoulos’s comments on the company’s India plans come even as the subcontinent was looking to increase its mobile telecom subscriber base to 500 million in the next couple of years.

“We are targeting to have 500 million mobile subscribers by 2010. We have already achieved a subscriber base of 305 million,” Sudhir Saxena, director in India’s department of telecom, told IANS in the course of the Gulf IT Exhibition (GITEX) in Dubai earlier this month.

According to Saxena, the country was looking for better spectrum technology for optimum allocation of licences.

“Back in India, we have a situation with the spectrums in the sense that some slots are vacant while others are not. We are looking for an expert who can consolidate these slots and then offer these to service providers,” Saxena explained.

He added that the government was in the process of auctioning third generation (3G) spectrum.

Saxena said the government was taking several measures to increase rural teledensity also.

Major telecom operators in the Gulf are increasingly looking at India for expansion.
Last month, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) leading telecom operator Etisalat announced its foray into the Indian market by buying 45 percent stake in the newly licensed Indian telecom operator Swan Telecom.

Swan holds universal access service licences (UASLs) in 13 telecom circles in India, and is in the process of acquiring UASLs for two more circles.

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