Hyundai, the South Korean carmaker and engineering conglomerate, is entering the mobile handset business with an initial rollout of 25 models in the GCC, said a senior official.

Gitex 2005

Hyundai Mobile, the mobile handset manufacturing arm of Huyndai, has set up an office in Dubai to support the distribution of handsets in these key growth markets.

It will invest in developing a network of showrooms, sales centres and service centres across the UAE to serve a growing customer base.

Eun Kim, Huyndai Mobile's business development manager, told Gulf News yesterday, "We have recently set up an office at the Dubai Internet City to speed up our distribution in the Middle East and African markets.

"We have won a tender to supply five million handsets to Orascom which we began to deliver. Accordingly, we supplied 70,000 handsets to Pakistan through Orascom's Mobi-link network.

"We have ambitious plans to capture market share. This year, we will supply 10 million handsets worldwide."

Hyundai entered the mobile handset business late last year with manufacturing bases in Korea, Taiwan and China.

It has a well diversified product portfolio from the lower end to high-end products, including sub-$50 handsets to PDAs, camera phones as well as those with GPRS facilities. The company will roll out 3G handsets in the coming months. The company has already appointed master distributors in 12 Middle Eastern markets including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Kuwait.

"We haven't yet appointed our distributors in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman where we are looking for partners," he said.

"Mobile penetration in the Middle East and Africa has reached about 20 per cent. Which means about 80 per cent of the population do not use mobile handsets. We consider this as one of the major growth markets. Currently, we are focusing on these markets to have our presence felt.

"In the UAE, we plan to set up our own distribution network, rather than appoint a distributor. This will enable us to protect the interest of our distributors in the region.

"Dubai is a place where parallel traders hunt for products to ship into their markets bypassing the distributors. So by retaining the master distributorship, we plan to control the re-export out of the UAE to protect our distributors in those countries.

"So we soon will be investing in developing a distribution network across the UAE. Initially, we will have three major showrooms for Hyundai Mobile products in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. We will then penetrate the brand through dealership network across the UAE," he said.

The company has been approached by a number of distributors for sole agency.