Vodafone Qatar scraps plan to acquire fibre wholesaler QNBN

Vodafone Qatar scrapped a planned acquisition of state-owned wholesale Internet service provider Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN).

In a statement to the Qatar Stock Exchange, Vodafone said it has terminated proceedings after conducting a due diligence and negotiation process into the proposed acquisition.

"[T]he Parties have determined not to proceed with the transaction," the statement explained, referring to a non-binding acquisition agreement between Vodafone Qatar and the country's Information Communication Technology Holdings (ICTH) company that currently owns QNBN.

Vodafone Qatar launched the bid to acquire the entire issued and paid up share capital of QNBN in October, noting at the time that it did not foresee any regulatory problems from the transaction because the deal would not produce "any conflict of interest between Vodafone Qatar, ICTH, and QNBN." The operator aimed to complete a deal by the year-end, subject to gaining regulatory clearance and concluding its due diligence and negotiations process.

In its recent stock market statement, the operator confirmed it was negotiating for 21 million QNBN shares at a value of QAR10 (€2.20/$2.75) each.

Matthew Reed, practice leader for the Middle East and Africa at Ovum, told The National that Vodafone's proposed deal appeared to run against the original remit of QNBN, which was to rent wholesale fibre capacity to Vodafone Qatar and its rival Ooredoo. QNBN began deploying its fibre network in 2012, the newspaper added.

Vodafone Qatar is 51 per cent owned by Vodafone Group, and the QNBN deal would have fitted with the parent company's broader programme of acquiring fixed-line and cable operators in European markets as part of a trend towards offering converged fixed and mobile services.

During 2014, Vodafone has acquired Spanish cable operator Ono as part of its convergence strategy. The company's Greek subsidiary also agreed a deal to acquire 72.7 per cent of domestic broadband company Hellas Online as part of the strategy.

Vodafone is now reportedly mulling a potential acquisition of European cable operator Liberty Global--a move apparently spurred by talk of rival BT seeking an acquisition of O2 or EE in the UK.

For more:
- see Vodafone Qatar's stock market statement
- see the company's original QNBN announcement
- view this article from The National

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