Ooredoo to Shun Telecom Acquisitions as Competition Heats Up

  • Phone carrier plans to repay or refinance $1.25 billion sukuk
  • Qatar-based company on track to meet 2017 guidance: deputy CEO

Ooredoo QSC, the Qatari-owned phone carrier, wants to focus on the 10 countries where it operates rather than grow through acquisitions in the telecommunications business, according to Deputy Chief Executive Officer Waleed Al Sayed.

Ooredoo, the sixth-biggest telecommunications company in the Middle East and Africa, has no plans to buy phone carriers although it is considering purchases in technology services, Al Sayed said in a phone interview from Doha. Ooredoo is currently negotiating to buy a majority stake in Salam Technology, and the deal may close in the second quarter, he said.

The company grew in the past decade from its base in Qatar to serve about 150 million customers from Algeria to Myanmar, largely through acquisitions. First-quarter revenue rose 2 percent to 8 billion Qatari riyals ($2.2 billion), driven by growth in Qatar, Indonesia and Oman, the company reported April 27. Sales increased amid tough competition for consumers, and was in contrast to other providers that had shrinking revenue, Al Sayed said.

"Our strategy is that we aren’t going to think about geographic expansion," the deputy CEO said. "We are going to strengthen our footprint."

A subdued acquisition strategy also means Ooredoo won’t be issuing bonds or taking out new loans. The company plans to repay or refinance a $1.25 billion sukuk, or Islamic bond, due in 2018, Al Sayed said. Ooredoo fell 2.3 percent Wednesday on the Doha Stock Exchange, bringing the shares down 1.2 percent for this year.

Ooredoo is on track to reach its 2017 revenue and earnings guidance, he said. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization are forecast to be unchanged to up 3 percent, while revenue will decline 1 percent or grow as much as 2 percent, he said.

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