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BT to Grow in Central Asia but Not Buy: Chairman

BT will forge partnerships with telecom operators in countries in Central Asia to boost its presence there but will not buy companies in the region, BT Group Chairman Sir Michael Rake told CNBC.com on Wednesday.

A local woman votes in the presidential election in the village of Kazakhstan, some 80 kms from Almaty on April 3, 2011. Kazakhstan votes on April 3 in a mostly ceremonial election that is set to stretch President Nurusltan Nazarbayev's rule into a third decade amid Western worries about democracy in the resource-rich state. AFP PHOTO / Vyacheslav Oseledko (Photo credit should read VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)
Vyacheslav Oseledko
A local woman votes in the presidential election in the village of Kazakhstan, some 80 kms from Almaty on April 3, 2011. Kazakhstan votes on April 3 in a mostly ceremonial election that is set to stretch President Nurusltan Nazarbayev's rule into a third decade amid Western worries about democracy in the resource-rich state. AFP PHOTO / Vyacheslav Oseledko (Photo credit should read VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)

Many businesses in the West realize that growth will be achieved by expanding into new areas, such as Central Asia, and BT's clients are looking to invest in the region, Rake explained in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia.

"Our first priority in the short term is to ensure that we have the best possible access to telecom networks here so we look after our global clients who invest in Central Asia," he said. "Good partnerships, good relationships, good access to the networks in Central Asia, that's the first thing."

BT manages the global networks of companies like Swiss food giant Nestle, US soft drinks maker Pepsi, Swiss bank Credit Suisse, global information company Reuters and chemical company BASF.

"The second thing is that we want to develop relationships with Central Asian companies who will, by definition, themselves become global," Rake added, giving the example of mineral resources companies in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan which are likely to become global players.

"Long term we will try to create relationships with developing Central Asian companies who will invest," Rake said, but ruled out any acquisitions.

"We’re not going to acquire, it's impossible to acquire, you're not allowed… no, we don't have any plans to acquire telecom companies," he said.

"Generally speaking that's very far down the list of things that people want to sell because that's a strategic asset. We're not going to compete in the retail sector in these countries… retail we do only in the UK, nowhere else," he added.

"Our job is to understand the country, the people, have good partnership relations with the owners of the networks," Rake said.

Contact Europe: Economy

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