Telecoms & ITC
Jordan: Smart moves"
With low prices translating into sustained growth in subscriber numbers, Jordan’s highly competitive mobile phone market now has a penetration rate of over 108%. To keep that number increasing, industry players are calling for a sales tax on smartphones to be rescinded, while also launching new mobile phone-based services. Jordan’s liberalized and well-developed telecoms sector is thus going through some exciting times. Indeed, with the return to normality after political unrest earlier this year, Jordan’s telecoms players are seen to be actively engaging with investors to restore confidence and attract funds to upgrade and expand the kingdom’s network. The country’s telecoms market is already the region’s most liberalized, with competition among operators intense. Furthermore, subscriptions to higher-value telecoms services will likely be spurred on by expansions in the country’s 3G and 3G+ networks. Operating as Orange Jordan and majority controlled by France Telecom, the Jordan Telecom Group (JTG) launched the kingdom’s first 3G+ capable network in March 2010. In February 2011, the company introduced its ADSL2+ and 3G+ package, which offer broadband speeds of up to 20 Mbps and 21 Mbps, respectively. The expansion of 3G+ services is expected to spark greater interest in smartphones and make it easier for consumers to buy them. To encourage use of the new network, Abed Shamlawi, the CEO of the ICT Association of Jordan, known as int@j, recently called for taxes on these devices to be reduced, saying that the elimination of the 16% sales tax could help significantly increase internet use by smartphone owners. Source: Oxford Business Group"
Iraqi telco IPOs unlikely before mid-2012"
Iraq's three mobile operators are unlikely to conduct initial public offerings until the middle of next year and will not be penalized for missing an August 2011 deadline, the country's regulator said. Under the terms of their licenses, Iraq's three operators Korek Telecom, Zain Iraq, a unit of Kuwait's Zain , and Asiacell, a unit of Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel), were meant to launch IPOs by the end of August. But all three of them had missed the deadline saying the fledgling Iraqi bourse was ill prepared for these listings. Iraq did not have a mobile phone industry under Saddam Hussein, but the sector has grown rapidly since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the dictator, and is one of the few regional markets offering double-digit subscriber growth. ""To put these shares in the market, it takes time,"" Ahmed Alomary, Commissioner of Iraq's Communications and Media Commission, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai. Iraq's bourse has a market capitalization of around $4 billion, and average daily trading in May was less than $2 million, prompting analysts to question whether the market is ready for the telecoms IPOs. Source: Reuters"
Saudi Telecom plans acquisitions in 2012"
Saudi Telecom Company (STC) plans major acquisitions in the Middle East next year to take advantage of a buyer's market to expand its regional presence, a senior company official said. ""I see 2012 as a year of potential acquisitions. We are now in more acquisitions mode than before,"" Ghassan Hasbani, chief executive of STC's international division, told Reuters on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum conference. STC was late to expand abroad compared with regional rivals such as the UAE's Etisalat and Qatar Telecom, but now owns 80 percent of Indonesia's Axis, 35 percent of Turkey's Oger Telecom and a one-quarter stake in Malaysia's Maxis Bhd. ""The market value of those assets is remarkably higher than the value that was paid for it three and a-half years ago. We have created a lot of value in the operations and assets through synergies,"" Hasbani said. STC also has mobile licenses in Kuwait and Bahrain. Source: Reuters"
Batelco, Korea firm ink ‘smart solutions’ dealt"
Batelco, the leading telecom service provider in Bahrain, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea Telecom to explore projects targeting Smart Cities services in the kingdom. Under the Smart Cities vision of services, both companies will be working on exploring services such as smart economy, smart mobility, smart environment, smart living and smart governance utilizing the latest set of information and telecommunications technologies. The agreement will benefit Batelco by enhancing the company's competitiveness in the marketplace by exploring innovative Smart Cities solutions utilizing the state-of-the-art communication infrastructure, which Batelco has invested in over many years. Batelco's Bahrain chief executive, Rashid Abdulla, said that the company was very pleased to join forces with a global leader such as Korea Telecom to explore Smart Cities services for the kingdom. Source: TradeArabia News Service"
Saudi firms to adopt cloud technologies"
Saudi Arabia is currently the largest information and communication technology (ICT) market in the Middle East and expectations for the next 12 months indicate that this will continue to stay so, according to a recent research. The research by Hewlett Packard and Coleman Research Group showed that 85% of Saudi Arabia’s organizations will adopt cloud technologies in 2012. The study also reveals that almost 40% of those looking to implement cloud computing are keen to do so prior to next year, a statement from the company said. The second Annual CIO Strategies Saudi Arabia Forum is set to take place in Riyadh on November 21 and 22. The event, which is being organized by French business information group, Naseba, is a two-day platform divided into two separate areas of focus. Source: TradeArabia News Service"
Almarai sees $36m writedown on Zain stake"
Saudi's Almarai, a founding shareholder in Zain Saudi, will likely take a $36 million impairment on its stake in the telecoms carrier at the end of 2011 if the shares remain stuck near current levels, the company's chief financial officer said. Diary firm Almarai was one of nine founding shareholders in Zain Saudi and owns a 2.5 percent stake initially valued at 350 million riyals ($93 million). The operator launched services in 2008, competing against rivals Saudi Telecom Co and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily). 'If the share price of Zain Saudi will stay at the level it's at currently or lower by year-end, we will then propose an impairment of the assets,' Paul-Louis Gay, Almarai chief financial officer. Based on Zain Saudi's share price on Sept. 30, Gay said the impairment would likely be 136 million riyals ($36.3 million), but since then the shares have fallen further, from 6.25 to 5.7 riyals, a seven-month low. With the firm's proposed capital restructuring, analysts see little scope for a rebound. Source: Reuters"