Saudi Telecom Company (stc) bought a 9.9 per cent interest in Telefonica for €2.1 billion, the Saudi Arabian operator’s latest move to increase investments outside of its home market.

In a statement, stc backed Telefonica’s current leadership and strategy, adding it had no intention of acquiring control or a majority stake in the Spain-based operator group.

Telefonica’s related stock market statement explained stc had bought 4.9 per cent through direct share capital and “financial instruments that provide economic exposure on another 5 per cent”.

The Saudi operator currently has voting rights on the direct share capital, with similar rights on the remainder subject to obtaining approval from regulators.

Figures published on Telefonica’s investor relations portal list Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria as its largest investor, with a near 5 per cent share as of the end of 2022, so the full 9.9 per cent would likely give stc top spot.

The acquisition is part of a strategy to expand stc’s interest in the ICT sector across global markets.

As part of this drive, earlier this year it bought €1.2 billion worth of tower assets in Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia from Unitel Group through tower subsidiary Tawal, having already expanded that business into Pakistan.

Mohammed K. A. Al Faisal, chair of stc, said it and Telefonica have much in common, adding “this long-term, significant investment by stc Group is a continuation of our growth strategy, as we invest in vital technology and digital infrastructure sectors across promising markets globally”.

In its disclosure, the Spanish operator cited “stc’s friendly approach and its support for the team management, Telefonica’s strategy and its ability to create value”.