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Zain accepts Bharti Airtel’s $10,7 billion offer

February 15, 2010 • Mobile and Telecoms, Top Stories

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel

After failing in its merging plans with South Africa’s MTN, India’s largest mobile operator, Barthi Airtel, might just walk away with a signed $10.7 billion deal for the African assets of Kuwaiti telecom group Zain, who agreed to proceed with the sale, reports the Kuwaiti media.

On Sunday, the board of Kuwait-based Mobile Telecommunications Company KSC, branded Zain, finally accepted Bharti’s proposal to buy its Africa operations. The deal excludes Morocco and Sudan.

The $10,7 billion offer was brought to Zain’s attention on Saturday. Last week, local daily al-Rai confirmed that a meeting would take place between the two parties to discuss Barthi’s offer.

If the deal concludes, Bharti, which offers mobile services in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, will gain access to 15 countries in Africa.

Zain board is expected today to make an announcement and forward the proposal to its shareholders.

The Indian operator started to hunt for emerging market acquisitions last year, offering $24 billion for MTN South Africa, a deal that was not concluded after two attempts and more than a year of negotiations.

The company announced in October it would look into buying a stake in Zain, the third largest telecoms operator in Middle East, just a month after the MTN deal failure. Zain replied by refusing to enter into any talks to sell its African assets to potential buyers interested in a stake in the parent company, Zain Group. One of the company’s shareholders, the Kharafi family, received an offer of about $13,7 billion from a group of Asian investors last year, for a stake in Zain’s assets.

Last Monday, Zain said in a statement that it has not received any sale offer. The company’s future plans seemed uncertain after CEO Saad al-Barrak suddenly resigned earlier this month, being replaced last week with Nabil bin Salama.

In January this year, Bharti bought 70% of Bangladesh’s Warid Telecom for an initial investment of $300 million to expand into emerging markets, using its low-price, high-volume model.

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