Oman has postponed its third mobile license offering due to complications regarding Zain Group's acquisition of a 9.84 stake in partially state-owned Oman Telecommunications (Omantel), according to UAE newspaper The National. The winner for the license bid was initially going to be announced on September 4.
Regional telecom companies - including UAE's Etisalat Group, Saudi Arabia's STC, Sudan's Sudatel and Kuwait's Zain Group - placed their bids for the Oman license this year. The winner would compete against the country's two current mobile operators Omantel and Ooredoo Oman.
Zain Group announced on May 2 on the Kuwait Stock Exchange that it had submitted an offer to bid for the Oman mobile license. Rival Saudi Telecom Company (STC) had confirmed its application a day earlier. Etisalat Group also confirmed its bid in May.
Oman's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has pushed the license winner announcement date to November 30, according to the National report, to gain further clarity of the deal in which Zain Group purchased a stake in Omantel for $846 million.
The deal has reportedly raised concerns in Oman as to whether Zain Group should be allowed to bid for the license. The authorities might allow Zain Group to proceed with its bid because Omantel will have a stake of less than 10 percent without any governance rights.
Ooredoo Oman, a subsidiary of Qatar's Ooredoo Group, is said to be the focus of a prior delay in which a shortlist of qualified bidders for the Oman license were supposed to be announced in August, a telecoms executive told The National, because of possible tensions between Qatar and its neighboring countries which further "complicated things".
Diplomatic ties between Qatar and its regional neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE ended recently amid allegations Qatar was supporting terrorist groups, The National said. Oman's relations with Qatar, meanwhile, have strengthened, the report added.