The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has signed a US$20mn loan to a Maldives company, Wataniya Telecom Maldive Private. In addition, IFC mobilised a US$7mn parallel loan from the Opec Fund for International Development, an inter-governmental development finance institution, which seeks to promote cooperation between Opec member states and other developing countries.

The company is owned by Wataniya Telecom of Kuwait through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Wataniya International. Wataniya Telecom Maldives was awarded the second nationwide GSM (global system of mobile communications) license in the Maldives in February 2005 and launched its operation in August 2005.

Mohsen Khalil, director of IFC’s global information and communication technologies department, says: “With this investment, IFC is facilitating the entry of Wataniya Telecom into the Maldives market, as the second private national operator. The project will introduce for the first time competition in the country’s telecom sector, which should drive sector growth, bring down tariffs and increase connectivity of the Maldives with the rest of the world.”

Iyad Malas, director of IFC’s South Asia department, adds: “In addition to building a relationship with the company, this loan will help improve telecommunications infrastructure in the Maldives and offer access to more affordable, high-quality services across the island archipelago.”

Mark Hanna, CEO of Wataniya Telecom Maldives, notes: “We are very pleased to cooperate with IFC on this project. This loan will finance the construction of a nationwide GSM mobile telecom network in the Maldives and, through a majority-owned subsidiary, also purchase bandwidth and buildout landing facilities for a fibre optic submarine cable.”