Kuwaiti group may bid for govt stake in Zain

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait's Securities Group said on Sunday it may make a multi-billion dollar offer for a near 25-percent stake held by state-owned Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) in telecom giant Zain.

"The Securities Group announces that it is making the necessary studies to make an offer to purchase part or all of the KIA stake in Zain telecom whenever the KIA decides to sell," the group said in an advertisement in local press.

KIA, the emirate's sovereign wealth fund, owns 24.6 percent of Zain, according to disclosures on the Kuwait Stock Exchange website.

The Securities Group, a leading investment firm listed on the Kuwaiti bourse, said it is ready to offer a price of two dinars (6.99 dollars) per share. Zain was trading at 1.42 dinars (five dollars) a share on Sunday.

If the deal goes through, it will involve the acquisition of some 1.05 billion shares worth about 2.1 billion dinars (7.34 billion dollars).

Last month, leading investors at Zain signed a preliminary agreement with an Indian-Malaysian consortium to sell them a 46-percent stake in a deal valued at around 14 billion dollars.

The consortium consists of Malaysia's al-Bukhary Group, India's Vavasi Group and state-run Indian firms Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL).

BSNL and MTNL were later quoted as saying they were interested to join the consortium depending on the due diligence studies expected to start shortly.

Zain CEO Saad al-Barrak said last week that Kuwait's largest mobile operator has halted negotiations for the sale of its African assets at the request of the consortium.

Zain, one of three mobile operators in Kuwait, is the largest listed firm on the Kuwait Stock Exchange and has a capitalisation of 20 billion dollars. It has 72 million clients in 24 countries.