Etisalat is considering steps to deepen its involvement in Pakistan, including eventually raising its stake in PTCL, reported “The Nationa”, a UAE daily, citing Etisalats chief and Pakistan’s investment minister.
The moves could also include pushing service further beyond major cities into rural areas and bidding for a new-generation 3G licence.
The expansion is part of a plan to see the firm reach into the four largest economies in the Middle East and 17 countries around the world.
Etisalat has focused much of its efforts so far on urban centres, but plans to push beyond them in search of new subscribers.
“We have plans to enhance our reach to rural areas of the country,” Mr Omran said. “This is our business model and this is what we want to do in Pakistan as well.”
He declined to say how much Etisalat would invest: “I don’t have the numbers yet. It will all depend on the volume of expansion.”.
Waqar Khan, the Pakistani investment minister, said Etisalat could invest as much as US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in equipment and infrastructure to enhance its network to rural areas in Pakistan.
Etisalat is also considering raising its stake in PTCL from the 26 per cent it bought for $2.6bn in 2005 to 51 per cent, Mr Omran said, giving Etisalat operational control.
“We have an option in our original contract to increase our stake in PTCL by 25 per cent. However, timing as to when we will do it is not decided yet,” he said. “This is definitely an option under consideration but it is not happening in immediate future.”
Mr Omran said that although Etisalat had the first option to increase its stake, Pakistan government regulations allowed offers from other operators, and that could be a long procedure.
He said the company is also keen to bid for a 3G licence in Pakistan.
Mr Omran said that according to Mr Khan, Pakistan would soon make the first 3G licence available for bidding for telecom operators around the world.
Via The National