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Out goes Celtel, in comes Zain

NAIROBI, August 1 – Mobile Operator Celtel Kenya Friday assumed the new brand name Zain Kenya, with a promise to hit the ground running and face off with the other three players in the market.

The change follows an 85 percent acquisition of Celtel International by a Kuwait-based Mobile Telecommunications Company in 2005, which later transformed to Zain.

The group has operations in 22 countries in the Middle East and Africa with a total of 52 million subscribers.

Zain Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Saad Hamad Al Barrack said the company would over the next five years invest heavily in Zain Kenya, with a view to develop the company’s network and enhance its competitiveness.

“We will in the next four or five years invest over Sh25 billion in Kenya to develop our network,” he told reporters.

Although he declined to divulge how much money was spent to re-brand Celtel Kenya, he revealed that each operation cost between $20 million and $100 million.

He expressed optimism that they would be the market leader by the end of 2009, and also planned to list the company on the Nairobi Stock Exchange in a few years.

“We are willing to list every operation that we have in Africa so that people can participate more in our business and we look forward to do the same in Kenya,” Barrack stated.

There are 14 countries across Africa where operations have been re-branded including Burkina Faso, DRC, Gabon, Madagascar, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

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In 2007, African operations contributed 56 percent to Zain Group’s revenues and accounted for 63 percent of their customer base.

The company also plans to launch its services in Ghana and Saudi Arabia before the end of 2008.

Barrack disclosed their ambitious plans to be one of the top ten global mobile telecommunications companies by 2011.

“We intend to have 110 million customers as well as increase our EBITDA (Earnings before Interest Tax Depreciation and Amortization) to $13 billion by 2011,” he added.

Newly appointed CEO for Kenya, Rene Meza said that they would implement strategies that would enable them avoid the pitfalls that have in the past hindered an effective penetration in Kenya.

Meza restated that they would focus on three aspects including strengthening their distribution channels, launch of competitive products and services and the building of its network.

Eight years since its launch in Kenya, the company has failed to make headways in the competitive market that is dominated by Safaricom.

The Group’s CEO Thursday met with President Mwai Kibaki, who welcomed the decision by Zain International to choose Kenya as their Africa Headquarters.

President Kibaki, who held talks with Zain International officials led by Dr Al Barrack, said Kenya was open for business and welcomed more investors to the country.

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The Head of State reiterated the government’s support for the communication sector through the removal of taxes on telecommunication equipment for rural infrastructure.

“Government spending on Information, Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure especially the fibre optics will make the cost of telephones lower,” President Kibaki said.

Dr Saad briefed the Head of State on the Company’s plans of making Kenya the Africa hub, moving the Headquarters from Amsterdam, Holland to Nairobi.

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