Oman delayed the award of the country’s third mobile licence, citing complications arising from the recent acquisition by Oman Telecommunications (Omantel) of a 9.84 per cent stake in Kuwait-based Zain Group.
Regional operators including Etisalat, Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Sudatel and Zain had bid for the Oman licence, which would clear the way for a new entrant in the country, and the winner was due to be announced on 4 September.
However, the date was pushed back to 30 November by the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, which is scrutinising the $846 million Omantel-Zain deal, and relevant parties have been informed, The National reported.
The deal is the largest overseas acquisition by Omantel, which is majority owned by the government, and created some uncertainty about whether Zain should be allowed to bid for the licence.
Oman’s regulator was reportedly due to announce a shortlist of qualified bidders in August, but a telecoms executive told The National it is possible tensions with Qatar and its neighbours further “complicated things”.
Qatar-headquartered Ooredoo launched Oman’s second operator in 2004, breaking Omantel’s hold on the market.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt broke diplomatic ties with Qatar amid allegations the country was backing terrorist groups, The National stated.
Meanwhile Oman’s economic relations with Qatar have strengthened, the newspaper added.