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Zain investors sell $13.7bn stake

09 сентября 2009

Shareholders in Zain, Kuwait’s largest telecommunications operator, are to sell a 46 per cent stake in the company to a consortium made up of Indian telecoms companies and a Malaysian investor, for about $13.7bn.

Bard al-Kharafi, vice-president of the Kharafi Group, one of the main shareholders of Zain, confirmed the 2 dinars a share deal, one of the largest transactions on record in the Gulf.

The buying consortium is made up of India’s Vavasi Group, regional telecoms companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam, and Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary, a Malaysian billionaire.

Mr Kharafi told a news conference the deal would take four months to complete. “It’s considered a good opportunity to exit the investment,” he said when asked why the company was selling its stake. “This deal is considered a profit for both parties.”

The Kharafi Group, owned by one of the Middle East’s wealthiest families, holds an 11 per cent stake in Zain through a subsidiary, Al-Khair. The Kuwait Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, owns 25 per cent of Zain.

Apart from the Kharafi Group, it is not known which other shareholders would sell their stake in the telecoms operator.

Zain had been in talks with France’s Vivendi about the sale of the Kuwaiti company’s African assets. The French media and telecoms company halted talks in July after Zain turned down an informal offer for a majority stake in the African assets that valued the overall business at $10bn-$11bn.

After talks with Vivendi broke down, Zain’s shareholders on August 31 approved the removal of ownership restrictions in the operator, paving the way for foreign or local investors to own a majority stake in the company.

The Kharafi family’s patriarch, Nasser Al Kharafi, is one of the wealthiest businessmen in the Gulf, with a net worth of $8.1bn according to Forbes’ rich list, and the group is one of the Middle East’s largest conglomerates.

Zain has forged a reputation as one of the Gulf’s most aggressive companies, buying its African business, then called Celtel, in 2005 for $3.4bn, and starting a price war with Saudi Arabia’s incumbent telecoms operator last year. It now operates in 24 countries and has nearly 70m mobile subscribers.

Источник: Financial Times

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