While assigning a “buy” rating to Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH), MENA investment bank Naeem Holding praised the company’s growth strategy and noted that it has “evolved into a well-balanced group with operations in mature markets providing healthy cash flow, while more exotic markets offer growth.” Its analysts forecasts the firm to generate free cash flow of roughly $1.6 billion in 2009. Through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Telecel Globe, Orascom invests in small and mid-cap mobile operators across Africa and Asia. And back in December, it raised eyebrows by becoming one of the first countries to invest in North Korea when it opened Ora Bank–a joint venture along with the country’s state-owned Foreign Trade Bank–while concurrently launching a high-speed mobile network that is 75% owned by Orascom Telecom and 25% by the state-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation after receiving a 25- year license and exclusive access to the country. Per Naeem: “Its entry into North Korea faces high execution risk, but strong subscriber growth is not in doubt.”
Yet Orascom’s frontier-dominated strategy–it is well situated in Algeria (”OTA”), Pakistan (”Mobilink”), Egypt (”Mobinil”), Tunisia (”Tunisiana”), Bangladesh (”Banglalink”) and Zimbabwe (”Telecel Zimbabwe”)–has not precluded it from eyeing value elsewhere, even in a relatively developed nation like Canada; the company entered the Canadian market in the fall when it began backing Globalive Communications in an attempt to pierce a Canadian mobile market dominated by three established operators (Rogers Wireless, Telus Mobility and Bell Canada Mobility). Orascom hopes that the country’s low mobile penetration rate of less than two-thirds will allow room for Globalive to grow, and Naeem concurs. “Sharp focus on the nascent pre-paid market will see Canada exceed early expectations,” it predicts.