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GIC to invest $50mn in Friendi Group firm

15 March 2013
Muscat - Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC), a financial institution equally and wholly owned by all the six GCC countries, has announced that it will invest US$50mn in Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (VMMEA), a mobile telecommunications group headquartered in Dubai.

VMMEA, an exclusive regional arm of global telecom leader Virgin Mobile, is a leader in the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) sector in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

In June 2012, Dubai-based Friendi Group had announced its 'strategic partnership' with Virgin Group's South African telecom operations to create VMMEA. Friendi then said it may consider introducing the Virgin Mobile brand in Oman.

VMMEA currently manages operations of Virgin Mobile in South Africa and Friendi Group in Oman, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

With GIC's fresh investment into VMMEA, GIC and the Virgin Group will be the two biggest single shareholders in VMMEA, alongside prominent global and regional shareholders including, ePlanet Capital, Dolphin International, NTEC and Millennium Private Equity, a press release on VMMEA's website said.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, said, "Virgin Mobile is the leading MVNO operator in the Middle East and Africa with operations in Oman, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. We intend to create a large regional mobile telecom player reaching more than 10mn customers. The investment by GIC is an important show of support by an important institutional investor for our ambitious plans."

Ibrahim al Qadhi, CEO of GIC, said, "GIC supports the growth of companies that have innovative and pan-regional business models. VMMEA has such a model and targets a niche market in telecommunications in the GCC. This is an important sector for the region and VMMEA is the perfect partner for existing mobile operators."

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Mikkel Vinter, CEO and founder of VMMEA, said, "The management of VMMEA look forward to working closely with GIC in rolling out the Virgin Mobile brand across the Middle East and Africa.

"We believe that the next phase of liberalisation in the sector supports the growth of MVNOs and we are thrilled to make this strategic investment in VMMEA. We look forward to working with the management team in VMMEA to support the further expansion of its existing operations as well as entering new markets," said Mohamed Eissa, head of technology and telecom investments at GIC.

© Muscat Daily 2013

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