QtelWataniya Palestine Telecom (WPT), Palestine’s second mobile operator, today announced its success in securing US$85m further funding to support the next phase of its mobile telephony network build-out. The first-of-its-kind private sector loan draws funding from a wide range of leading international banks and local Palestinian banks, as well as multilateral institutions, providing material support for the creation of a new infrastructure for mobile phone services within Palestine.

It is the first agreement in this field to deliver funding for development from international and local private sector sources.

The US$85m Senior Secured Syndicated Facility loan was agreed between WPT and the lender group comprising of the Bank of Palestine Plc, Quds Bank, Commercial Bank of Palestine Limited, Ericsson Credit AB, International Finance Corporation, and Standard Bank Plc. Exportkreditnämden, the Swedish Export Credits Guarantee Board and GuarantCo, a specialist guarantor of infrastructure financing in low-income countries, are acting as guarantors to the Syndicated Facility. Standard Bank Plc is acting as a Global-Coordinator for the Facility.

Executives at the signing ceremony said the loan reflected international confidence in Palestine’s potential for growth and development and demonstrates the local lenders ability to support initiatives of this significance. The US$85m Senior Secured Syndicated Facility will play a key role in accelerating WPT’s development of its wireless network, which will increase access to high quality telephony across the general population and provide support and services for communities who have previously not had access to mobile communications.

In addition, the investment funding will help upgrade the overall quality and performance of the infrastructure for the Palestinian people. By deploying Ericsson AB equipment supported by its network infrastructure expertise, WPT will be able to offer a world-class telecommunications service, including a range of products that have previously been unavailable to customers.

WPT is owned and controlled by the Palestine Investment Fund (“PIF”) and Wataniya Telecom of Kuwait. Wataniya Telecom is majority-owned by Qatar Telecom Q.S.C. (“Qtel”), the diversified telecommunications group offering world-class communication services in 17 countries, which has pledged ongoing support for WPT’s efforts in Palestine.

Dr. Nasser Marafih, CEO, Qtel International, said: “Qtel is a firm supporter of long-term investment in Palestine’s communications infrastructure through Wataniya and the agreement announced today is a key milestone in that development process. We believe that the people will benefit significantly through the social and economic opportunities delivered by an advanced mobile communications network.”

“Qtel has set itself the target of becoming one of the world’s top 20 telecommunications companies by 2020, and our operations in high potential markets like Palestine will make a key contribution to that goal,” he added.

Dr. Mohammad Mustafa, Chairman and CEO of the Palestine Investment Fund stated, “This deal is the first of its kind in Palestine’s history. It demonstrates a vote of confidence by both international and local lenders in the future of the Palestinian developing economy and in Wataniya’s commercial success. PIF is proud of its role as a co-founder of WPT, our largest economic project since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.”

“We are equally proud that our partnership with Wataniya Telecom and Qtel in this venture will offer customers high quality services and excellent value for money, while generating jobs and business opportunities for the small and medium businesses in Palestine,” he added.

Allan Richardson, Chief Executive Officer for WPT commented: “This is an important strategic step in the launch of WPT’s mobile network, which will aid in the economic development of Palestine, fuel job creation, and most importantly, provide choice and accessibility to a high-quality mobile network for the people of Palestine. We are excited to have such a prominent group of lenders bring their support and endorse the development of this significant project in Palestine. Our hope is that this will pave the way for future financing deals of a similar nature to help Palestine’s economy and growth,” concluded Richardson.

Nina Triantis, Global Head of Telecoms, Standard Bank Plc, stated: “This landmark transaction is the first cross-border syndicated loan to Palestine, and importantly includes commercial bank participation. Standard Bank is proud to have co-ordinated and arranged the Senior Secured Syndicated Facility and to be associated with Wataniya Palestine Telecom at this exciting stage of the company’s development.”

Qtel and PIF have invested more than US$ 200 million in Wataniya Palestine Telecom to finance license payments, set up the company and begin the build-out of the mobile telephony network. The launch of commercial services is anticipated by Wataniya Palestine Telecom in 2009.

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