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An agreement for a US$10mn loan has been signed between the Opec Fund for International Development and SpaceTel Syria, the second GSM mobile service provider in the country.

Formed in 2001, SpaceTel was awarded a 15-year licence on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis. The purpose of the loan is to assist the company in the expansion of its network capacity to meet the growing demand for mobile telecommunication services. SpaceTel has been offering pre-paid services since July 2003, which are envisaged to be the main source of growth.

To date, the company has some 770,000 subscribers, of which almost one-half are pre-paid. SpaceTel is aiming to close the year with more than 900,000 active subscribers. The development of an acceptable customer-responsive mobile telecommunications network will enable the country to compete more effectively in the world economy.

The financing represents the Opec Fund’s fourth private sector operation in Syria. The fund has also approved seven loans in support of public sector projects in the areas of agriculture, energy, health and water supply and sewerage. Syria has also benefited from four technical assistance grants.
In March 2001, an agreement for the encouragement and protection of investment was signed between the fund and the government of Syria.