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DUBAI: Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco) is in talks with Reliance Communications to buy a stake in the Indian operator’s enterprise business unit, the former monopoly said yesterday.
Batelco wants to expand abroad to offset declining domestic income and is keen to return to India, despite its former affiliate S Tel being one of eight mobile operators to lose their telecom licences last year as part of a corruption probe.
“We are in discussions with Reliance Group with respect to Reliance Globalcom,” Batelco chief executive Sheikh Mohamed bin Isa Al Khalifa said in a statement.
Peter Kaliaropoulos, Batelco Group Chief Executive Officer for Strategic Assignments, said the talks were about buying a stake in Reliance Globalcom.
Reliance Communications, India’s No.3 mobile phone carrier by customers, had net debt of about $6.9bn as of December, or more than five times its annualised operating profit, making it the most-leveraged Indian phone carrier. Earlier yesterday, the Times of India reported that Batelco and Reliance were in negotiations, saying the Bahraini operator had valued Reliance Globalcom at $1.3bn. The report also said Reliance would retain a minority stake should the deal be completed.
“At this point, there can be no certainty this will lead to a transaction,” Sheikh Mohamed added. Reliance Globalcom provides communications services to more than 2,100 businesses, 200 carriers and 2.5 million retail customers in 163 countries, according to the company’s website.
It also owns what it says is the largest private undersea cable system, spanning 65,000km.
If successful, this would be Batelco’s second major deal in a matter of months. In December, it agreed to buy Cable & Wireless Communications’ Monaco and Islands division, which owns stakes in telecom operators in 12 markets including the Maldives, Channel Islands and the Seychelles. That deal was worth up to $1bn.
Batelco owns Jordanian telecoms firm Umniah, 27 percent of Yemeni mobile operator Sabafon and minority stakes in internet providers in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and is also active in Egypt, but 59 percent of its 2012 revenue came from its home market, which is deteriorating. Domestic profit fell 32 percent in 2012, outpacing a 12 percent drop in revenue.
Pertamina seeks part of Exxon’s Iraq stake
BAGHDAD: Indonesia’s state-owned oil and gas firm Pertamina is in talks to buy 10-20 percent of Exxon Mobil’s stake in Iraq’s West Qurna-1 oilfield, Indonesia’s Chief Economic Minister said yesterday.
The development of the $50bn West Qurna-1 project has been in question since last year, when Exxon offered to sell its stake after contracts it signed with the autonomous Kurdistan region riled Baghdad, which rejects them as illegal. Indonesian minister Hatta Rajasa confirmed that Pertamina is interested in buying into the project. It has begun negotiations for a possible 10 to 20 percent stake, he said at a news conference in Baghdad.
Sources have said Exxon is considering selling part of its 60 percent stake in West Qurna-1 to PetroChina, the listed arm of China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has offered Exxon sweeter contract terms to keep it operating in the south, on condition that the US oil giant gives up its Kurdish deals, industry sources say.