Qatar Telecom, also known as Qtel, has purchased a substantial stake in Orascom Telecom's Tunisian unit for $1.2bn (Dh4.4bn), in a deal which could help to speed along one of the biggest telecoms mergers of recent years.
Orascom Telecom Tunisie, also known as Tunisiana, is currently 50 per cent owned by Wataniya Telecom, a Kuwaiti-based subsidiary of Qtel, which will gain 100 per cent ownership of the company.
It is hoped that the deal will help to move along the proposed $6.5bn merger between Egypt's Orascom Telecom and Vimpelcom, a Russian telecoms operator, which would create the fifth-largest telecoms company in the world.
"The proceeds of the sale will be used in part to repay Orascom Telecom's outstanding indebtedness and will therefore reduce the amount of indebtedness that will need to be refinanced by Vimpelcom as a result of the transaction," Tunisiana's parent company Weather Investments said in a statement.
Karim Khadr, head of research at Alembic HC Securities, said that selling Tunisiana to Qtel may have been the line of least resistance for Orascom.
"They want, when the deal is signed with Vimpelcom, to dispose of any non-core assets," he said. "Tunisia isn't a big asset for Orascom.
"Orascom is facing issues in extracting cash from Algeria, so that would be one way of extracting cash," he said.
* With agencies