Omantel ready for talks on Worldcall stake

Oman Telecommunications is considering a bid for a majority stake in the Pankistani company.

Oman Telecommunications Co. (Omantel) said on Sunday it was considering a bid for a majority stake in Pakistan's Worldcall and would begin talks with the wireless operator.

Omantel, the country's second largest firm by market value, did not say how much of the Pakistani operator it wanted to buy or what it was looking to pay. A 51% stake in Worldcall would be worth around $113 million at its last traded price.

Shares of Worldcall have more than doubled over the last year, bringing its market value to around US$220 million.

A Worldcall source told Reuters in Karachi last week that the deal was struck at a meeting on Tuesday and should be wrapped up soon.

Omantel said the company's board had only agreed on Tuesday to negotiate a deal.

"The formation of the negotiating team does not mean, in any way, that there has been a final decision by the board of directors to invest in World Call," Omantel said in a statement.

Last month, Omantel Chief Executive Mohammed al-Wohaibi told Reuters in an interview his company was due to conclude the purchase of a majority stake in a Pakistan-based telecom operator in June, although he did not identify the company.

State-controlled Omantel, the Gulf's smallest telecom operator by market value, is expanding outside its home market, where it will lose a fixed-line monopoly this year, two years after the mobile phone business opened up to competition.

Other telecom operators in the world's biggest oil exporting region have targeted Pakistan as they expanded abroad, armed with petrodollars from their government shareholders.

Qatar Telecommunications Co., which operates Oman's second mobile phone operator Nawras, completed the purchase of a majority stake in Pakistan's Burraq Telecom last month.

Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Telecommunications Corp. bought a 26% stake in Pakistan Telecommunications Co. Ltd. for $2.6 billion in 2005.

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