December 5, 2007 / 12:36 PM / in 11 years

S.Lanka Mobitel invests $200 mln in network upgrade

COLOMBO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The wireless arm of leading fixed-line telephone operator Sri Lanka Telecom SLTL.CM said on Wednesday it hopes to hike its subscriber base by 17 percent by early next year after investing $200 million to upgrade networks.

Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sri Lanka Telecom, said the investment would enable it to provide superfast 3.5G data services, and China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] had been awarded a contract.

“Our funding came partly from a Sri Lanka Telecom bond issue, partly self-generated investment and two loans,” said Suren Amarasekera, chief executive officer of Mobitel.

“With the investment, we are hoping our subscriber base will move up. By the end of this year we would be almost 1.5 million,” Amarasekera said, adding he saw the investment pushing that up to to 1.75 million by March-end.

The firm would then have to spend more for growth. Sri Lanka Telecom is one of the most valuable firms on the Colombo bourse. Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (9432.T) has a 35.2 percent stake in the firm. (US$1 = 109.10 rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal, Editing by Mark Williams)

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