Vodafone pushes ahead with plan to start mobile operations in Qatar this year

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The Independent Online

Vodafone is stepping up its plans to become the first international operator in Qatar after setting itself a target of launching operations in the country before the end of the year.

Vodafone beat competition from rivals including AT&T of the US and the Middle Eastern group Zain to secure the licence from the Qatar government last December.

The move will make Vodafone the first international player in Qatar's mobile operator market, and also the only competitor to the incumbent operator Qatar Telecom.

The UK telecoms giant is pushing ahead with the strategy to set up and register a local subsidiary company in Qatar, as well as working towards floating a "minority stake" in the division on the local exchange.

Vodafone has set a deadline of the end of 2008 to be open for business, but must carry out the initial public offer first. The float of a stake of the subsidiary on the Doha Stock Exchange was a precondition for all those bidding for the licence.

Vodafone won the licence as part of a consortium with the Qatar Foundation, a charitable body in the region, and the two are working towards launching Vodafone Qatar.

Vodafone has operations in Egypt and Turkey, and previously had an agreement with Zain in Bahrain over the sale of Vodafone-branded handsets. This licence will be its first mobile operating opportunity in the region. The mobile group is on the lookout for other opportunities in emerging markets.