Qatar, Saudi telcos vie for Syria licence
Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel) joined Saudi Telecom Co (STC) in reaching the final round of bidding for Syria's third mobile telecoms licence, Qtel said in a statement on Monday.
Qtel and STC were among five operators to qualify for the licence auction, but the other three -- France Telecom, the UAE's Etisalat and Turkcell -- have withdrawn, Syria's telecoms ministry said in a statement on its website.
The trio were unhappy with some of the license requirements, the ministry said, including a 25 percent tax on revenue and a state monopoly over infrastructure for seven years.
Syria has been rocked by anti-government demonstrations in which dozens of people are reported to have died. The protests pose the biggest threat yet to president Bashar Al-Assad's 11-year rule, but Syria's telecoms industry is relatively under-developed and offers attractive growth prospects.
Syria's mobile penetration was 33 percent in 2009, according to data from the International Telecommunications Union, against an average of 62 percent in Arab states as a whole.
'Qtel confirms that it has submitted both the financial and technical bids for the third licence in Syria,' Qtel wrote in a statement emailed to Reuters.
On Saturday, STC said it had submitted an offer for the Syria licence. The two existing mobile phone operators in Syria are South Africa's MTN and Syriatel, which is mostly owned by Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf.