Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Egypt's Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH) , one of the biggest telecommunications firms in the Middle East, said on Tuesday net profit rose 7 percent to $168 million in the first quarter of 2007.

Orascom Telecom said in a statement its earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 19 percent to $517 million on revenue up 22 percent at $1.195 billion. Subscribers exceeded 56 million, up 61 percent compared with the same period in 2006.

"During the first quarter of 2007, OTH (Orascom Telecom Holding) continued its momentum of growth by adding 4.9 million subscribers," the Cairo-based firm said.

Shares in the firm listed on the Egyptian stock market hit a 15-week low on Tuesday, closing at 74 Egyptian pounds ($13) before the results were released.

Orascom Telecom is headed by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, with operations in several countries including Algeria, Tunisia, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq and Bangladesh.

It said its Pakistani subsidiary Mobilink added over 2 million subscribers, while its Egyptian unit MobiNil added some 1.5 million subscribers to more than 10 million.

"In Iraq, the security situation has created significant emigration of Iraqis. This phenomenon combined with a cleanup of the dormant subscriber base led to a decrease of subscribers," the statement said.

Orascom Telecom said the average revenue per user (ARPU) continued to decline "as the subscriber base continued to grow reaching lower income levels."

The firm said in March it would seek to enter new markets with large populations and adequate risk and return profile.

Analysts and industry sources in South Africa have said Orascom Telecom was likely one of the bidders to buy the loss-making Cell C . The company declined to comment.