Saudi Telecom Weighs Debt Sales to Fund MENA Acquisition Plans

  • Company set up $500 million technology fund earlier this year
  • Telecom operator to invest in AI, drone via venture capital

Saudi Telecom Co. is considering tapping the debt markets as it plans acquisitions in the Middle East and North Africa, Chief Executive Officer Khaled Biyari said.

“Part of the growth story will not be organic growth,” Biyari said in an interview with Bloomberg TV during an investment summit in Riyadh. “M&A will play a major role in that. Therefore, we need to tap into all kinds of different financial instruments, including issuing sukuk or tapping both local and international markets.”

STC set up a $500 million fund in May to invest in digital and technology investments. Last year, the company planned to purchase a 10 percent stake in Middle East-based ride-hailing app Careem Networks FZ for $100 million. The phone operator also holds a 35 percent stake in Oger Telecom, which owns Turk Telekomunikasyon’s majority owner, Oger Telekomunikasyon AS.

The company, which is 70 percent owned by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, is also seeking more investments in new technology to diversify away from more traditional sources of revenue, Biyari said.

“We want to create new revenue streams close to the core but also invest in the future in areas that are not typical for a telecom operator,” he said. “We are talking about drones and artificial intelligence. That will be done through our venture capital.”

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