Middle East round-up: Du provides Metro wifi, Orange Israel seeks new owner, Batelco reviews India


By Dawinderpal Sahota  www.telecoms.com

In the Middle East, UAE operator Du has announced that it has provided wifi access across the Dubai Metro, the majority shareholder in Orange Israel is looking to sell its stake in the firm and a Bahraini operator is left reeling after the Indian Supreme Court cancels its licence to provide 2G services in the country.

Du has teamed up with Chinese vendor Huawei on a project to provide wifi access across the Dubai Metro, which will deploy its transmission network solution across the rail service. The project will see passengers and small retail businesses able to access mobile services in the stations across 18 metro stops on the Green line.

Huawei admitted that it sees a lucrative opportunity among urban rail operators. The vendor said that it has completed a number of rail projects worldwide, and that the MENA region is currently the world’s fastest growing market for rail projects and is expected to double in size in the next decade. There is more than $250bn of planned investment in the railways sector in the region and Huawei said that rail is central to its growth in the region.

“Dubai is a great place to live, work and do business in, but as the city continues to grow, congestion and traffic are becoming more problematic,” said Dr. Liu Qi, president, Middle East for Huawei Enterprise. “Better public transport infrastructure is an added draw for businesses investing in the region.”

Meanwhile, the majority shareholder of Orange Israel, Scailex Corporation, is looking to sell its stake in the operator. In Israel, France Telecom’s Orange brand is operated by a company called Partner Networks, in which Scailex currently holds a share of approximately 44.5 per cent.

The company has appointed Deutsche Bank and Lazard Freres to oversee the sale of its stake and Deutsche Bank has confirmed that it will supply a credit line of up to $1bn to the winning bidder, if necessary and subject to certain conditions.

The company is considering options including a deal that would turn Partner into a privately held company, according to Scailex’s statement.

And Bahraini operator Batelco said that it is carefully studying the detailed judgement handed down by the Supreme Court of India with its legal advisers and STel Management, following the decision from the Supreme Court of India to cancel 122 spectrum licences purchased in 2008.

Batelco invested in STel in order to enter the Indian market and said that it did so after following a diligence exercise with the support of financial and commercial advisers. The company said that it also received certain representations and warranties from STels promoter regarding the validity of the licence. However, it stressed that it was not involved in the bidding for licences, which have since been found to be marred by corruption.

“Batelco was not involved in the STel licence application process nor had any knowledge of any of the events surrounding the granting of the 2G licences in January 2008,” the firm said in a statement.

Batelco will also review the sustainability of its business operations under the revised conditions imposed by the Indian Supreme Courts. It has held 42.7 per cent equity in STel since May 2009.

“As Batelco continues to grow and diversify its operations, it intends to explore all options to remain involved in the Indian telecommunications market,” the company added. More info