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China Mobile Eyes Expansion to Uzbekistan

China Mobile Communications Corp is considering buying a stake in Uzbekistan Telecom, a telecom operator owned by the Uzbekistan Government.


The move underscores a growing desire of Chinese telecom operators to expand operations beyond their home turf, following the runaway success of telecom equipment makers Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp in overseas market.


China Mobile executives paid a visit to Uzbekistan early this month, and has discussed the possible acquisition with Uzbekistan and the country's regulators, according to China's embassy in Uzbekistan.


China Mobile will follow the capitalization of Uzbekistan Telecom, and will visit the country again later this year, the Economic and Commercial Counsellor's Office of the Chinese Embassy in Uzbekistan said.


Last year, Uzbekistan regulators announced plans to sell a 49 to 64.2 per cent stake of Uzbekistan Telecom to foreign investors.


Russia's Golden Telekom, Sistema Telekom, South Korea's Korea Telecom and Britain's Solan Communication will participate in the capitalization project of Uzbekistan Telecom.


In March, the Uzbekistan Government began inviting global tenders, but have yet to make a decision on tender offerings.


China Mobile representatives were not available for comment.


China Mobile's bid for a stake in Uzbekistan Telecom comes hot on the heels of its failed bid for controlling a 26 per cent stake in Pakistan Communications Co (PTCL) for US$1.41 billion in June.


Chen Jinqiao, a researcher of China Academy of Telecommunications Research under the Ministry of Information Industry (MII), said Chinese carriers are "starting to have a global view" of their operations.


In the past, Chinese operators, especially China Mobile, the world's largest mobile operator in subscribers, have been focusing on the home turf due to their well-established dominance and the huge size of the domestic market.


Chen expects Chinese operators to pursue mergers and acquisitions opportunities in developing countries which have close political and economic ties with China.


According to a report by local newspaper Yemen Observer on Sunday, China Telecom, the largest fixed-line operator in China, is among the short-listed bidders for Yemen's third licence to operate GSM services in the country.


(China Daily August 10, 2005)


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