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Indian Telco Eyes Zain’s Africa Operations

17 August, 2009

Indian telecom firms African jaunt seems to be gathering steam. After Bharti Airtel revived talks with South Africa’s MTN for what could create one of the largest telecom operators in the world in terms of subscriber base, now Kuwaiti telecom operator Zain is in talks with three major telecom firms, including one from India, to sell all or part of its African operations.

The name of the Indian suitor has not been disclosed as per this agency report, which cited Zain’s chief executive speaking to Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai.

But one possible suitor could be Reliance Communication which had earlier also tried unsuccessfully to strike a deal with MTN last year. Other large Indian telecom operators include, Aditya Birla Group led Idea Cellular and Tata Group’s Tata Tele.

Incidentally, earlier Zain was reportedly in talks with few new Indian telecom licence holders including Dhoots owned Datacom to buy a stake to enter Indian market.

Zain, which is in the midst of a strategic review is being advised by investment bank UBS. It plans an extraordinary general meeting on August 31 when shareholders will be asked to vote on amending its ownership restrictions. This could pave the way for selling a large stake in the firm.

Zain’s biggest shareholders are Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund and family-owned conglomerate, the Kharafi Group.

The Kuwaiti firm had earlier last month disclosed that it was reviewing a possible sale of its African operations excluding those in Morocco and Sudan. It was in negotiations with French media and telecoms giant Vivendi but the deal didn’t fructify.

Gulf rival Etisalat has already said it was interested in picking a majority stake in Zain but it may face regulatory hurdles in acquiring assets which are in the same market in which Etisalat operates currently.


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Indian Telco Eyes Zain’s Africa Operations

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