FRiENDi GROUP, a regional Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) based in Dubai, has announced a "double-digit USD millions" equity investment by Oman-based Dolphin International and a global venture capital firm, ePlanet Ventures.
Dolphin International has been their local partner in the FRiENDi GROUP operation in Oman and ePlanet Ventures was already an investor in a previous round in 2008, but the additional money that they have raised is still big.
The mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) concept (whereas the company that provides the mobile services does not have its own license nor does it necessarily have all of the infrastructure), is an established concept worldwide - as of February 2009, there has been over 400 active MVNOs operated by over 360 companies. But in the Middle East FRiENDi GROUP has been most active with their first regional MVNO lanuch in Oman earlier this year.
Millennium Private Equity, a telecom private equity firm in the Middle East, has invested with them in 2008.
(Their full press release follows:
Dubai, 27 September 2009: FRiENDi GROUP, the leading pan-regional Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) has announced an equity investment by Oman based Dolphin International LLC and global top-10 venture capital firm ePlanet Ventures.
Dolphin International LLC is a privately owned Omani company established in 1985 that holds a diverse portfolio of investments in Banking, Infrastructure, Education, Healthcare, Bio-Technology, Advertising, Real Estate, Construction, Surgical Products and Energy. Mr. Mohamed Y. Al Ibrahim, Managing Director of Dolphin International LLC will join the Board of Directors for FRiENDi GROUP.
"We are happy to join a prominent group of existing shareholders and to support the strong management team of FRiENDi GROUP. We fully believe in the plans FRiENDi GROUP has for expanding the MVNO business model in the region, and look forward to contribute to the company's success" said Mohamed Y. Al Ibrahim of Dolphin International LLC. "As a local partner in the FRiENDi GROUP operation in Oman, we know the company and its management well, and therefore this regional investment is an important strengthening of the relationship between Dolphin International LLC and FRiENDi GROUP"
ePlanet Ventures is one of the world's leading Venture Capital companies with 10 offices across Asia, North America and Europe. It has funded over 90 innovative high-growth companies worldwide, including landmark investments such as Baidu, Skype and Focus Media.
"ePlanet became a shareholder in FRiENDi GROUP in March 2008, and the additional investment we are announcing today is a manifestation of our confidence that FRiENDi GROUP has a bright future ahead of it in the attractive mobile telecommunications markets of Middle East & North Africa" said Asad Jamal, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ePlanet Ventures. "We are pleased with the progress FRiENDi GROUP has made so far, having launched the first MVNO in the MENA region, and we see the company as very well positioned for continued development and strong growth." he added.
FRiENDi GROUP is headquartered in Dubai, and has pioneered the MVNO concept in the MENA region, including making regional telecommunications industry history when launching the first regional MVNO in April 2009. The group is delivering better services and value to its customers by using and value-adding the mobile networks of existing telecom operators, and this enable a quick regional service rollout without the considerable cost and long lead-times of building and maintaining an own mobile network.
"We have raised this additional double-digit USD millions equity to further improve our financial readiness for launching multiple MVNO operations in quick succession across the region, now we successfully have validated the MVNO model in the region with the launch of our operation in Oman", said Mikkel Vinter, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FRiENDi GROUP. "We are particularly pleased with both Dolphin International LLC and ePlanet Ventures being existing regional and local investors, so their additional investment that we have announced today is a sign of trust in the company and our business model".
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