Zain halts talks to sell African assets

Zain halts talks to sell African assets

Kuwait: Kuwait’s biggest phone carrier, Zain, halted talks to sell its African operations at the request of potential buyers of 46% of Zain, chief executive officer Saad al-Barrak said.

“Yes, Zain’s negotiations have been suspended. This was at the request of the potential buyers," al-Barrak told reporters at an Arab Media Forum in Kuwait on Monday night. Zain was in talks with three international telecommunications companies over the sale of its African operations, al-Barrak said on 31 August.

Kuwait’s Khorafi group, one of Zain’s largest shareholders, signed a preliminary agreement last month to sell a majority stake in the carrier to India’s Vavasi group and Malaysian billionaire Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary. The buyers would gain 72 million customers across 24 countries in West Asia and Africa. On 16 September, the Khorafi group invited smaller shareholders in Zain to sell their shares to gather enough stock to sell a majority stake in the company.

Al-Barrak said the Indian-Malaysian group still hasn’t started looking at the books. He wouldn’t comment further on the stake sale. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd have expressed interest in joining in the proposed purchase of 46% of Zain, Khorafi group’s vice-chairman Bader al-Khorafi said on 4 October.

Al-Barrak on Monday said Zain’s Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation and amortization) grew 33% in the first eight months of the year.

The company’s forecast calls for 30% growth in Ebitda this year, he said. “We don’t have any losses in the company. We’re doing very well," al-Barrak said. “In 2010, we will have lucrative profits."