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Wed 9 Feb 2011 11:40 PM

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Batelco joins race for stake in Zain Saudi

Batelco's confidential and non-binding offer for Zain Saudi stake is valid till February 16

Batelco joins race for stake in Zain Saudi
TELECOM OFFER: Batelcos offer is subject to due diligence, terms and conditions, as well as regulatory and board approvals

Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco) has made an offer to buy the Saudi telecoms assets of Kuwait-based operator Zain, Batelco said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Our offer remains valid till February 16, 2011," Peter Kaliaropoulos, Batelco Group chief executive, said in the statement, without giving the value of the offer for the 25 percent stake in Zain Saudi.

Zain has to sell its stake, valued at 2.75bn riyals ($733m), in Zain Saudi for regulatory reasons so that it can sell 46 percent of its own stock for $12bn to UAE telecom firm Etisalat.

The Etisalat deal is championed by Kuwaiti family-owned conglomerate Kharafi group, a major Zain shareholder.

Batelco's confidential and non-binding offer is subject to due diligence, terms and conditions, as well as regulatory and board approvals, Kaliaropoulos said.

On Sunday, Saudi investment firm Kingdom Holding said it had extended to Feb 13 its offer to buy the stake. Kingdom has not said how much it would pay.

Batelco is one of the smaller operators in the Gulf region, trying to find a niche alongside heavyweights Saudi Telecom Co, Zain and Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat).

Regional operators are wrestling with lower margins at home due to new competition in liberalised markets and financing costs for acquisitions and new licences abroad.

Batelco's fourth-quarter net profit fell 18.6 percent but was in line with expectations as a loss in market share and start-up costs in India hurt full-year earnings.

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