Qtel takes over Tunisia’s leading operator as Orascom withdraws from the country

Tunisia’s largest operator, Tunisiana, is now completely owned by Qtel. The Qatari operator already owned a 50% stake following a joint venture with Orascom, and the Egyptian conglomerate has now sold its stake to its partner as part of an effort to reduce its overall debt before it completes its merger with VimpelCom.

The stake will be bought by Wataniya, Qtel’s majority owned local operator, with the Tunisian investment fund Princesse Holding joining forces with Qtel to pay the US$1.2 billion asking price. Tunisiana will then be owned 100% by Wataniya.

"The acquisition is in line with the Qtel Group’s vision... and with our strategy of active portfolio development, through which we may seek to increase our ownership in well-performing assets, with further growth potential," said Qtel chairman Sheikh Abdullah al-Thani. "The partners will work with the Tunisian authorities to finalise the transaction and anticipate closing with Orascom Telecom in early January 2011."

Orascom has stated that the sale “corresponds to an enterprise value equal to 6.7 times Tunisiana’s 2009 EBITDA and generates over 40 percent annual return on [Orascom’s] investment in the business since 2003.”

The parent company of Orascom, Weather Investments, issued a joint statement with VimpelCom that underlined the return-on-investment represented by Orascom’s withdrawal from Tunisia: “Divestment of the Tunisian operations will also have a positive impact on the pro-forma leverage ratios as the proceeds of the sale will be used in part to repay Orascom Telecom’s outstanding indebtedness and will therefore reduce the amount of indebtedness that will need to be refinanced by VimpelCom as a result.”

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