Etisalat presses on with Zain bid
The United Arab Emirates’ largest carrier Etisalat is once again facing hurdles in its bid to control Kuwait’s Zain but has not given up hope that negotiations may finally reach fruition.
Etisalat missed the January 15 deadline to buy 46% of Zain, Kuwait’s largest mobile phone operator, due to delays in the negotiations, and no new deadline has been set, Bloomberg reports.
While the carrier is still keen to strike a definitive deal, its takeover has been met with objections from minority shareholders, the news site said citing confidential sources.
Etisalat has gained approval from Zain shareholders holding 40% of the company, but has failed to gain approval from other shareholders including Al-Fawares Holding, which holds a 4.5% stake.
Al-Fawares’ owner Sheikh Khalifa Ali Al-Sabah had indicated he was seeking other buyers, including Cukurova Holding, one of the largest shareholders in Turkish carrier Turkcell.
While Sheikh Khalifa had said his negotiations were ‘non-binding’, CNBCs Arabiya Television had reported on January 12 that Cukurova had agreed to buy a 29.9% stake in Zain for 1.72 Kuwaiti Dinars (€4.61) a share. Etisalat had offered 1.7 Iraqi Dinars a share.
The episode marks the second time Zain’s shareholders have tried to sell control to firms other than Etisalat.
Controlling a majority stake in Zain would help Etisalat expand its presence in the Middle East, where Zain operates in countries ranging from Kuwait and Iraq to Bahrain.
Zain sold its African assets to India’s Bharti Airtel for $9 billion (€6.7 billion) in March 2010.