Egypt's OT to form Canadian wireless operator

Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:59am EDT
 
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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's Orascom Telecom ORTE.CA ORTEq.L, among the biggest mobile phone operators in the Middle East, said on Tuesday it was part of a consortium chosen to create a new Canadian wireless operator.

Cairo-based OT, which joined forces with Canada's Globalive Communications Corp, said in a statement the new operator had provisionally won a license for wireless spectrum in the country and was the high bidder across every region with the exception of Quebec, with a population coverage of 26 million.

The auction of airwaves over which wireless services are delivered raised C$4.25 billion ($4.25 billion) in 331 rounds and almost two months of bidding. The proceeds were more than twice the amount analysts had expected.

"With a population of 33 million and a mobile penetration rate below 60 percent, Canada fits in with OT's strategy of expanding into markets with large populations and relatively low penetration rates," Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes said.

Shares in OT rose more than one percent after the news before easing back to 59 Egyptian pounds ($11.11) by 0920 GMT (5:20 a.m. EDT), a 0.7 percent decline from Monday's closing price.

Spectrum has become a highly desirable asset for telecom companies that see data services such as wireless e-mail, text messaging and multimedia downloads as key to their growth. Having more spectrum lets companies offer a broader menu of services to a larger base of subscribers.

Orascom Telecom said it was waiting for the final regulatory approval for the license. The group has operations in several countries including Pakistan, Algeria and Egypt.

(Writing by Alaa Shahine; Editing by Erica Billingham/Quentin Bryar)