Qatari incumbent operator Qatar Telecom (Qtel) has announced that it is to acquire a further 15 per cent stake in its Tunisian counterpart, Tunisiana, from the North African country’s government. Q-Tel already holds a direct 75 per cent stake in Tunisiana through its subsidiary Wataniya and this latest 15 per cent, for which Q-Tel is paying US$360m, will take its holding to 90 per cent.

The Qatari Government will retain the remaining ten per cent with a view to a future public offering.

Sheik Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani, chairman of Qtel, said the deal was being made at the beginning of a “new phase” for Tunisiana, as it looks to expand its 3G offering and launch fixed line services in 2013. “We are pleased to have been offered the opportunity to further increase our shareholding in Tunisiana, an outstanding company which we believe will continue to deliver long term value for our shareholders,” he said. “We are convinced that these new services will enhance the experience of Tunisiana’s customers and will contribute to growth in Tunisia’s economy.”

At end 2011 Tunisiana had over half of the Tunisian mobile market. Informa’s World Cellular Information Service forecasts that this share will remain constant for the next three years, but that the firm’s subscriber base will begin to decline in 2016 as gains are made by its competitors; Orange Tunisie and Tunisie Télécom.

Informa also expects 2016 to be the year in which Tunisiana’s 3G subscriber base breaches the four million mark, overtaking its 2G business in customer numbers.

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