Saudi MTC to sell 40% of shares

Saudi Arabia's third mobile firm wins $6.11bn licence bid, will sell 40% of shares to public.

Saudi Arabia's third mobile firm, partly owned by Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co. (MTC), will sell 40 % of its shares to the public, the government said on Monday, approving its $6.11 billion bid for a licence.

The government accepted the bid almost three months after the MTC-led consortium emerged the de-facto winner of a contest to enter the market of the world's top oil exporter, topping the next highest offer by more than $1.5 billion.

The licence went to Saudi Mobile Telecommunications Co., established by MTC and Saudi partners including Almarai, the Gulf's largest dairy firm by market value, state news agency quoted a cabinet statement as saying.

The company will sell a 40 % stake, or 560 million shares, to the public within 30 days of winning approval from the trade ministry, the statement said.

MTC said in March it would take a 25 % stake in the new company.

A fifth of the planned offering will be equally shared by Saudi state-owned General Organisation for Social Insurance (GOSI) and the Public Pension Agency, according to MTC.

The second highest offer among seven groups of bidders for the licence was $4.6 billion.

MTC has said it expects to post its first profit in Saudi Arabia four years after it starts operations in 2008 and would invest $6 billion to $8 billion over its first five years.

Saudi Arabia's two mobile operators claim a penetration rate of some 84 % in the 24-million population.

State-controlled Saudi Telecom Co. claims 14 million users and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) says it has almost 6.5 million customers.

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