The monopoly operator also announced on the same day that it had recorded a 25 per cent growth in net profits from 2004. Omran said that the company’s primary focus would remain Arab countries, the surrounding areas such as Pakistan, where it recently acquired a 26 per cent acquisition in Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PCTL), and Africa. He added that the company had also been approached to look at the Iraqi market.

‘We are now number 18 in terms of market capitalisation in the world telecoms list,’ he said. ‘I see Etisalat moving up towards the top 10 in the next five years.’

Omran denied recent reports that Etisalat was considering the purchase of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecommunications company. ‘We know that they have been sold to a new owner and we understand that they may want to sell their holdings in other countries, but this is not a firm thing.’

However, Omran confirmed that the UAE’s incumbent operator was looking to enter the European market through strategic investments as and when they come about. ‘Europe is not easy,’ he said. ‘It is a complex market with a different environment to what we’re used to, but it is a natural development for us.’

Etisalat is one of several regional companies to have ventured abroad over the last year as regional economies continue to be spurred by record oil revenues. The company announced on 31 January a 25 per cent rise in net profits to AED 4,300 million ($1,170 million) in 2005. Total revenues climbed by 23 per cent to AED 12,900 million ($3,512 million). The positive results follow a busy expansion programme in 2004, which saw the operator win the second GSM licence in Saudi Arabia and the second fixed-line licence in Sudan.

Etisalat is set to see competition at home for the first time later this year. A new firm, Emirates Company for Integrated Telecommunications (ECIT), is set to roll out mobile services by the second half of the year, before launching fixed-line, internet and pay TV services (MEED 27:1:06).