Mowasalat to add new franchises, 1,000 more taxis to the road in 2014

Taxi

Lawrence Wang/Flickr

Qatar’s state-backed transportation company Mowasalat is marking its 10th anniversary with plans to expand its fleet by a third, from nearly 3,000 to 4,000 taxis, its chief executive officer has said.

Part of that strategy entails the launch of two new franchises who will roll out some 500 cabs each this year, Khalid al-Hail told reporters during a press conference yesterday.

Profit Trading & Contracting Company is planning to hit Doha roads in May, and Ibn Ajayan Trading Group is looking at an August or September start date, Gulf Times reports.

The two franchises, which are expected to be distinguished by the colors green and yellow, will join maroon-roofed Al Million and blue-roofed Al Ijarah, which collectively operate some 1,450 taxis. The original, grey-roofed Karwas account for the rest of the fleet of nearly 3,000 vehicles.

The franchises must charge the same rates as their sea-green counterparts, but operate separate call centers.

Transport crunch

Al Hail’s announcement was made several months after previous plans to roll out yellow-roofed taxis from Petro Qatar were scrapped for not meeting licensing requirements in August.

Mowasalat has not commented on what happened, but the deal may have fallen through because Al Ijarah bought Petro Qatar. Since it was no longer a separate company, it was conceivably unable to operate as a separate franchise.

As Qatar’s population continues to grow at a rapid clip, transportation has proven to be a challenge for some. Though many residents complain that there are not enough taxis in Qatar, others say the problem is the quality of the service.

Drivers who overcharge, are rude or late, or choosy about their clients have particularly drawn ire.

However, some Mowasalat employees counter that customers do not understand that they are underpaid and overworked, and simply doing what they can to make ends meet.

IPO plans

Meanwhile, Mowasalat is advancing on long-discussed plans to take the company public, which officials say would increase accountability and make the company more efficient.

Last week, Qatar’s Transport Minister briefed the Cabinet about Mowasalat’s privatization plans. Gulf Times reported that the company had initially planned to go public in 2013, according to an announcement made three years ago.

Speaking yesterday, Nasser Al Khanji, executive director of operations, confirmed IPO plans, saying, as reported by the Peninsula:

“This decision has been taken by the government and its implementation may take one to two years, or more.”

Qatar is in the middle of holding its first IPO in four years, with Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding Co. The subsidiary of Qatar Petroleum was fully subscribed this month, and will officially go public on Feb. 26.

QP has said it plans at least two other IPOs in the coming years.

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