x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Iraqi telecoms company Korek in talks over stake sale

Speculation that France Telecom, owner of Orange, was interested in acquiring a stake in Iraq's third mobile telecoms company remain unconfirmed.

Korek expects to strike a deal on the sale of a stake in its business by the end of the week.
Korek expects to strike a deal on the sale of a stake in its business by the end of the week.

Korek Telecom is in talks with two rivals to sell a minority stake and expects to strike a deal by the end of the week, says the Iraqi telecommunications company's chief executive.

The revelation came after speculation that France Telecom was interested in acquiring a stake in Korek, though Humam Amara, the Korek chief executive, said a deal had not yet been struck.

Mr Amara said: ""It's still in discussions. We haven't signed anything with Orange," referring to France Telecom's key brand. "We're in discussions with another foreign, publicly listed company, but I can't tell you because we signed a [non-disclosure agreement] with them."

Mr Amara said discussions between the two operators were in the final stages, and Korek would decide in the next few days to which company it would sell a stake.

"The market in Iraq leaves huge room for growth and [a deal] positions ourselves to grab our fair share of the market," Mr Amara said. "We're basically looking for a partner that we can create synergies with, both financially and managerially."

Tom Wright, a spokesman with France Telecom, said the company "can only confirm that Iraq is part of a zone of strategic interest for France Telecom.

"We aim to double our sales in emerging countries, in particular in Africa and the Middle East, by 2015. In this context, we examine all potential opportunities for growth."

Korek, which Mr Amara said was valued at about US$3 billion (Dh11bn), is looking to sell a stake of between 35 per cent and 49 per cent.

Korek became Iraq's third mobile company after purchasing a licence from the government in 2008 for $1.25bn and has spent an additional $900 million on building a mobile network across the country.

dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae