Middle Eastern regional mobile network operator Wataniya Telecom plans to expand its presence in the region and increase investments outside its native Kuwait.

The company is bidding to win licences in Iraq and Egypt and is looking for opportunities to participate in telecom markets in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.

The company has declared increased profits of US$182mn and an increase in its regional customer base of 141% and has seen consistent growth in each of its operations.

The group’s consolidated net profit increased by more than 30% in 2005, allowing the company to declare an 80% cash dividend and 5% bonus shares to its shareholders.

Ahmad Haleem, Watania Chief Executive Officer, said that the company is very interested in the Iraqi market.

“The Iraqi government will stop receiving the pre-qualifications for the new licence and evaluate them and maybe open the bidding for the companies in 30 to 45 days,” says Haleem.

He says that the opening of the UAE telecom market is a positive development in the region.

“We are ready to participate in any valuable chance in the UAE telecom market. We aren’t in negotiations with the UAE telecom authorities but maybe we could provide internet services on mobile phones in the future,” says Haleem.

Wataniya Telecom will continue seeking relevant mobile opportunities. The company manages operations in Kuwait, Tunisia, Iraq, Algeria, the Maldives and Saudi Arabia, and serves more than 7mn customers.
“Wataniya has seen expansion in its regional operations, consistently outperforming the market, with major network expansion in each of the markets where we have a presence,” says Haleem.

“That growth is set to continue in the coming year, and we will be aiming to drive investment into new markets as well,” Haleem says.