Saudi Telecom buys 35% stake in Oger for $2.6b

Saudi Telecom, the largest Arab telecom firm by market value, said on Sunday it had agreed a $2.6 billion deal to buy 35% of Oger Telecom, gaining access to markets from Turkey to South Africa, a Reuters report said.

The Reuters report said Oger, controlled by the family of late Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, was in talks to sell a stake to French telecom group Vivendi after scrapping a public share sale.

The talks ended without a deal, Vivendi said in November.

Gulf Arab telecom operators are expanding out of their home markets, where most have been riding a wave of economic growth spurred by a five-fold increase in oil prices since 2002, the report said.

Saudi Telecom lagged its regional rivals, making its first foreign acquisition only last year, when it bought 25% of Malaysia's Maxis in a $3 billion deal that gave it access to India and Indonesia, the world's second and fourth most populous countries, the report said.

Oger Telecom operates in the two countries and Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan, providing fixed-line, mobile and internet services.

Its parent, Saudi Oger, is a construction company controlled by Hariri's family, the report further said.