(Bloomberg) -- State-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Co. is keen to close its acquisition of Telenor ASA’s local unit in 2024 — a milestone that will place it within sniffing distance of the market leader Veon Ltd.’s Jazz by bolstering its market share in the highly competitive sector.

The Islamabad-based service provider expects to complete the transaction by December with “any required investment,” its Chief Executive Officer Hatem Bamatarf told Bloomberg on the sidelines of a conference in the city on Tuesday. 

The deal, struck in December that valued the target at 5.3 billion kroner ($487 million) will add 45 million customers to the subscriber base of Pakistan Telecom. This will also give it an overall market share of 36% up from 13% right now, data by Pakistan’s Telecommunication Authority show, placing it at no. 2 and close on the heels of Jazz, the country’s largest telecom player with a 37% market share.

Pakistan Telecom, in which Emirates Telecommunications Group Co PJSC owns a minor stake, operates its mobile services company under the name of Ufone in world’s fifth largest nation by population. Only three operators will be left now — China’s Zong, Jazz and Pakistan Telecom to compete for the country’s 191 million users with cut-throat pricing. It reported a loss of 14.1 billion rupees for the year ended Dec. 31., it’s second straight annual loss.

The “severe” competition and some structural imbalances in the local market have reduced the average revenue per user to as low as 300 rupees ($1.1) a month, Banatraf said. “That’s like three cups of tea per month for an individual.” 

While the intense competition has led to dirt-cheap mobile tariffs and a wave of exits by the European companies from Pakistan — it’s also battling a slow economy and Asia’s highest inflation rates. The consolidation underway in its telecom sector will create a few large players that survive this shakeout.

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