KARACHI: Dutch telecom giant, VEON Limited, has acquired 15 percent minority stakes in Pakistan Mobile Communications Limited (PMCL) from the Dhabi Group for $273 million, the European firm announced this week, making the company the 100% owner of Pakistan’s leading mobile service provider.
VEON is listed on NASDAQ and provides global connectivity and Internet services while PMCL operates a leading mobile service provider, Jazz, in Pakistan.
“Our ambition to digitally empower Pakistan is fueled through enhanced connectivity and by creating equal opportunities for all,” Jazz CEO Aamir Ibrahim told Arab News on Wednesday. “We will continue to empower the people in remote areas to ensure that every Pakistani has access to high-speed Internet, and no one is left behind.”
In a statement issued on Monday, VEON said the transaction followed the Dhabi Group’s exercise of its out option announced on 28 September, 2020 and now gave VEON 100% ownership of PMCL, thereby streamlining the group’s governance over its Pakistani assets and enabling VEON to capture the full value of the growing business, including future dividends paid by PMCL.
“We are excited to conclude this transaction and take full ownership of our business in Pakistan. Jazz has an abundance of growth opportunities as its customers embrace our market-leading 4G and digital services,” Sergi Herrero, VEON’s co-CEO, said in the statement.
“We look forward to supporting the team at Jazz as they continue to develop these opportunities further,” Herrero said, adding: “I would also like to thank the Dhabi Group which has been a strong partner to VEON in Pakistan.”
In September last year, the Dhabi Group, an Abu Dhabi-based investment holding company, decided to exit Pakistan’s telecom sector by selling out 15 percent stakes in Jazz to VEON. In 2016, Warid Telecom Pakistan, backed by the Dhabi Group, was also acquired by Jazz. In return, the group received 15 percent stakes in Jazz.
With over 68 million subscribers, including 27 million 4G users, Jazz is one of the biggest mobile operators in Pakistan and the first to start GSM operations in the country. The mobile operator was also the first to provide 4G services to the residents of South Waziristan, a remote tribal area in the northwest of Pakistan.
“The rollout of 4G services in South Waziristan is in line with our commitment to bridge the digital divide and connect our fellow countrymen with fast and reliable mobile broadband,” the Jazz CEO said.
About 98 percent of Pakistani households own a mobile phone whereas mobile service penetration has reached 84 percent with 180 million mobile subscriptions, according to government data.