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French Version

Dubai consortium wins Tunisia telecom contract

The consortium of TECOM Investments and Dubai Investment Group (TECOM-DIG) - both members of Dubai Holding - which emerged the highest bidder for 35 percent of Tunisie Telecom said today that the investment will be a strategic move that will tap the growth of the Tunisian market.

The consortium yesterday emerged the highest bidder with an offer of $2.25 billion. The bid outstripped all earlier ones, including Vivendi's latest offer of $2.04 billion.

TECOM-DIG was pre-qualified together with 12 other international telecom operators in Q3 2005. Six operators presented formal offers in February 2006, including France Telecom, Vivendi Universal, Etisalat, Saudi Oger/Telecom Italia and MTN from South Africa. Only TECOM-DIG and Vivendi Universal were selected for the final bidding round. The bidding was a closed process with the offers opened at a public ceremony.

"We are proud and pleased to make this major investment in a fellow Arab country," said Ahmad Bin Byat, CEO of TECOM Investments. "We understand the region and the culture and this will help us maximize value for Tunisie Telecom and facilitate the development of Tunisia."

"This will be a strategic investment for us in the region and will aid the development of the Arab region's economy. The investment would be the first step for TECOM's interest in Tunisia and the development of its ICT sector. We are delighted to include this fast-growing Tunisian asset in our portfolio and look forward to seeing fast growth, notably in the mobile, enterprise and data sectors,' Bin Byat added.

Soud Ba'alawy, CEO Dubai Investment Group said, "Tunisie Telecom has significant growth potential and is an extremely valuable investment. For DIG, this forms part of a long-term commitment to the Tunisian market. We find the Tunisian economy both attractive and sustainable. DIG believes in investing in the growing telecom sector in the region as part of its mission to diversify its investment portfolio globally."

Tunisie Telecom is well-positioned to tap the expected rapid increase in uptake of telecom services among Tunisia's 10.2 million population. At the end of 2005, the company already had a substantial customer base of 3.4 million mobile subscribers and 1.2 million fixed-line subscribers.

Tunisie Telecom is the sole provider of fixed-line services. In the mobile market, Tunisie Telecom competes against Tunisiana and has a majority market share of 60 percent in the mobile sector. Additionally, Tunisie Telecom is a majority shareholder of Mattel, a mobile operator in Mauritania.

Tunisie Telecom is an integrated operator providing Fixed, Mobile and Data Services in Tunisia. The TECOM-DIG consortium established their International Telecom arm earlier in 2005. TECOM is a telecom operator in the U.A.E. and has recently gone public with its telecom operations through its investment in EITC (Du).

Talks between the U.A.E. and Tunisia began in 2005 when His Excellency Mohammed al-Gergawi, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs in the U.A.E. and Executive Chairman of Dubai Holding, visited the Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. At the time, Gergawi praised Tunisia for its initiatives and complimented Tunisia's thriving and diverse economy.

The team for the final round of bidding consisted of Ahmad Bin Byat, CEO of TECOM Investments; Soud Ba'alawy, CEO Dubai Investment Group; Mustafa Geninah, Managing Director MENA, Dubai Investment Group; and Deepak Padmanabhan, Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer, TECOM.

The Daily Star

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