December 8, 2009 / 12:08 PM / 10 years ago

Etisalat expects Libya licence, eyeing Lebanon stakes

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Etisalat expects to be awarded Libya’s third GSM licence later this month and is eyeing majority stakes in Lebanon’s telecom companies, its international investments head said on Tuesday.

A Telkom Kenya employee arranges mobile phones at one of their outlet in the capital Nairobi, September 17, 2008. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna

“We believe ours is the best bid and we are confident of being awarded the third licence in Libya,” Jamal al Jarwan told reporters on the sidelines of a MEED conference.

A decision would be taken by the Libya before the end of this year, he said.

Etisalat, which operates in 18 markets including the United Arab Emirates, will pursue its acquisition strategy overseas in 2010 to take advantage of lower valuations he said.

Among the markets it is eyeing are Lebanon and Morocco.

“We are waiting for privatisation in Lebanon and would like to take a majority stake in one of the existing two operators there,” he said.

“Valuations have come down drastically today. From eight to nine times EBIDTA (earnings before interest, depreciation, tax and amortization), now you see opportunities of five or six times EBIDTA because of the global situation,” he said.

Etisalat is comfortable with its cash position but will not rule out a bonds issue as an option. “We are looking at medium term notes including sukuks,” he said without elaborating.

Asked about the viability of sukuk in light of the Dubai World debt crisis, he said, “It needs to be reviewed on a case by case basis. Any investor would look at the issuer and our ratings are good,” he said.

Etisalat is also looking at buying companies that provide content for 3G, he added.

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