x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Etisalat eyes buys with $3bn war chest

Etisalat is eyeing acquisitions as it seeks to benefit from falling prices in a financial crisis, potentially using its US$3 billion (Dh11bn) in cash.

Ahmed Abdulkarim Julfar, chief operating officer of Etisalat, says the company is well-positioned to go bargain-hunting during the world financial crisis.
Ahmed Abdulkarim Julfar, chief operating officer of Etisalat, says the company is well-positioned to go bargain-hunting during the world financial crisis.

DUBAI // Etisalat is eyeing acquisitions as it seeks to benefit from falling prices in a financial crisis, potentially using its US$3 billion (Dh11bn) in cash, a senior official said on Sunday. Like other Gulf telecom firms, Etisalat has been snapping up assets worth billions of dollars in populous countries such as Egypt and Pakistan. When asked about the cash position of Etisalat to finance possible acquisitions, Ahmed Abdulkarim Julfar, chief operating officer of Etisalat , said: "We have over $3 billion."

"We are watching what's happening in the markets. We are not holding back but waiting to see what will happen. We believe there will be a lot of opportunities in 2009," he told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai. "Out of this crisis, great opportunities will come for operators with a very good financial position for mergers and acquisitions." Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications better known as Zain, said earlier this month it planned to make four to five acquisitions worth up to $4bn before 2010 to take advantage of declining asset prices due to the global credit crunch.

Mr Julfar said Etisalat was focusing on the region, declining to be more specific. Etisalat has invested $11bn in 16 countries so far, Mr Julfar said during a panel discussion. "We need to focus during this time to create value in these markets. Always the telecom sector is the last and least affected during a crisis," Mr Julfar said, naming Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and India. Etisalat's head of international investments Jamal al Jarwan said in September the firm was in final-stage talks to buy a majority stake worth up to $1bn in a Middle East telecoms operator.

The company's shares are down 32.29 per cent, outperforming Abu Dhabi's main index, which has declined 39.25 per cent. *Reuters