Etisalat said its affiliate Pakistan Telecommunications (PTCL) is interested in merging with Warid Telecom, a move that would create the second largest operator in Pakistan, Reuters reports.

Etisalat is believed to have hired Goldman Sachs to advise it on a potential bid, the report said. Etisalat holds a 26 per cent stake in PTCL and has management control of the business.

GSMA Intelligence figures show that at the end of the first quarter of 2013, PTCL’s Ufone had 23.6 million connections, making it the third largest operator in the country.

Orascom’s Mobilink, the market leader, had 36.6 million connections while Telenor had 30.8 million.

With Warid Telecom having 12.5 million connections, the addition of Ufone’s subscriber base would give the combined company a total of 36.1 million connections, putting it into second place.

Reuters reported in June that Warid’s owner Abu Dhabi Group had put the operator up for sale for an estimated $1 billion.

The Pakistan mobile market may benefit from some consolidation as margins have been squeezed due to increasing market penetration and competition and an economy that is struggling.