DUBAI Jan 2 Qatar Telecom (Qtel), the majority state-owned telecommunications operator, has agreed with the Tunisian government to buy a further 15 percent stake in that country's operator Tunisiana for $360 million.
The purchase raises the Qatari firm's stake in Tunisiana to 90 percent, Qtel said in a statement seen on Wednesday. Wataniya , Qtel's Kuwaiti arm, already held 75 percent of Tunisiana.
The Tunisian government will retain a 10 percent holding in Tunisiana with a view to conducting a public offer of shares in future, the statement added.
Qtel has been raising stakes in its subsidiaries, taking advantage of the gas-rich Gulf state's healthy financial position at a time when other large telecommunications firms are shying away from deals.
"We also look forward to continuing our partnership with the Tunisian authorities as Tunisiana enters into a new phase of its development with the continuing expansion of 3G services and the launch of fixed line services in 2013," Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani, chairman of Qtel Group, said in the statement.
Some Gulf investors have been looking to raise their presence in Tunisia, where valuations are low because of the political strife which followed the Arab Spring uprising. Other Arab Spring countries such as Egypt and Libya have also been targeted by cash-rich Gulf buyers.
Qtel has expanded into more than 16 countries in the past decade and spent nearly $4 billion last year to take majority ownership of its Iraqi unit Asiacell and Kuwaiti arm Wataniya in separate deals.