Batelco eyes Asia assets

Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) said it is shifting its focus away from the Middle East – where assets are overpriced – to Africa, India and the Asia-Pacific region as part of a $4 billion (Dh14.68bn) acquisition drive.

The company has come under increasing pressure from regulators and competitors in its home market, and in the next five years sees about 80 per cent of its income coming from foreign operations.

"In the Middle East, the price for acquisitions is very high and the value is not what we're looking for," said Batelco Chief Executive Officer Peter Kaliaropoulos.

In the region, only the Lebanese and Syrian telecom markets are worth considering, he said. The firm has bid for a mobile phone licence in Qatar.

"Really, in the rest of the Middle East, there's nothing," Kaliaropoulos said. "There are no big opportunities... the big opportunities are in Africa, or India and Asia-Pacific," he said, identifying Malaysia and Indonesia. Batelco plans at least one acquisition this year.

In October, it said it could spend between $2bn and $4bn on an acquisitions, of which it could fund $2bn itself and borrow the rest.

In the next five years, Batelco aims to double its users in Jordan to 2.4 million, and more than triple numbers in Yemen to five million from 1.6 million, Kaliaropoulos said.

In Bahrain, which has a population of 1.05 million, Batelco aims to raise user numbers 42 per cent to one million, he added.