MTC buys out OT in Fastlink

03 January 2003
Cairo-based Orascom Telecom (OT)has sold its stake in Jordan Mobile Telephone Services (Fastlink)to one of Kuwait's GSM operators, Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC). The deal, completed on 24 December, was worth $424 million.

National Bank of Kuwaitacted as MTC's sole financial adviser for the transaction, while Egypt's EFG Hermes Investment Bankingbrokered the deal between the Kuwaiti and Egyptian operators.

MTC has acquired OT's entire 91.6 per cent stake in Fastlink, which, when added to MTC's existing equity holding, gives the Kuwaiti operator a 96.5 per cent equity holding in the Jordanian GSM operator. The move heralds the first active steps taken by MTC towards the implementation of its regional expansion strategy.

OT, which in December told MEED that it intended to focus on its Middle East and North African assets, said the sale of Fastlink would enable the company to fully realise that value of one of its more mature assets. 'The proceeds

of the transaction will allow OT to strengthen its balance sheet and substantially reduce its debt obligations,' the company's chairman Naguib Sawiris said in a statement.

OT's debts have escalated after the company embarked on a major regional expansion, acquiring Algeria's first private GSM licence in July 2001 for $737 million and Tunisia's first private GSM licence for $454 million in May 2002 (MEED 15:3:02; 10:8:01).

OT first bought a stake in Fastlink in May 1999 as part of a regional expansion programme. It acquired a further 43 per cent in August of that year and upped its holding again in January 2001, purchasing a 26 per cent interest from the US' Motorola(MEED 12:1:01). Fastlink has a subscriber base of 950,000, giving it a market share of 75 per cent.

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