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14 May, 2008 19:15

Mobile major dials up Africa and Middle East

The owner of MTS, Sistema, wants to continue its aggressive expansion outside Russia this year and has found new partners in a bid to break into African and Middle Eastern telecom markets. The Russian mobile phone giant almost doubled its net profits last

Sistema Telecoms Vice President Vitaly Savelyev says their aim is to create a global player on the telecom stage.

“We regard our Indian project as a gateway to the Pacific Ocean region. We plan to build a network in the country as big as the network of our Russian mobile operator MTS in the CIS countries”.

The Russian holding has recently purchased a controlling stake in India's Shyam Telelink, a company that was awarded licenses to operate in twenty-one regions. This gives Sistema a good chance to catch up with India's leading operators.

The group is also pushing into other markets. Sistema signed a partnership agreement on Tuesday with Dubai-based DAS holding.

DAS owns a 40% stake in United Arab Emirates mobile operator Etisalat. An old rival of Sistema, Etisalat is also expanding aggressively in Africa and the Middle East. Etisalat recently announced plans to buy Africa's largest operator, MTN.

Russian telecom firms have previously tried to bid for foreign assets abroad on their own, but failed to outbid the largest global players. That strategy has changed, and partnership with influential local players seems to be bringing greater success.