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etisalat fibre-optic network to top Dh5b

etisalat is hopeful that it can extend the UAE fibre-optic network cover to 90 per cent by 2011

Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon/Gulf News
etisalat Chairman Mohammad Hassan Omran declined to comment on the possible timing of a bond issuance, a plan for which was announced by etisalat in June.

Abu Dhabi: Etisalat's total investment in its UAE fibre-optic network will reach Dh5 billion by the time of its completion, etisalat chairman Mohammad Omran said on Tuesday.

The company aims for the network, which now covers 60 per cent of UAE households and businesses, to reach 90 per cent coverage by the end of 2011, Omran said on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Conference 2009. He did not specify when the network was scheduled for completion.

Fiber-optic cables have grown more popular with regional telecom operators over copper wires because of their efficiency in providing telephone, internet and cable television services.

Omran declined to comment on the timing of a possible bond issue, a plan announced by etisalat in June.

"When we need financing we will go to the markets," he said.

"Today we do not need that."

In mid-October, etisalat chief financial officer Salem Al Sharhan told Gulf News the company was planning to have its bond programme ready by the end of November to fin-ance its expansion plans.

The issuance of the bond could take place by the end of this year or in early 2010, "depending on our financing needs," he said.

Last month, etisalat acquired Sri Lanka's second-largest mobile operator, Tigo, for $207 million (Dh760 million). The company is also vying for a two-in-one mobile and land networks operation licence in Libya, having submitted an offer worth Dh3 billion.

"Many banks are encouraging us to go for Sukuk or bonds in general, so the market seems to be favourable," Omran said.

Bond rates

"We can see that there will be a good opportunity for good bond rates in 2010."

Despite controlling operations in 18 countries, etisalat relied on its UAE operations for 90 per cent of its revenues and 98 per cent of profits in the first half of 2009, a scenario that has pushed the company into aggressively pursuing a strategy of international expansion.