Kuwait's Kharafi says could sell majority in Zain

Group has already inked deal with Asian investors to sell 46% stake in Kuwaiti telco. 
Kuwait's Kharafi says could sell majority in Zain
By Rania El Gamal
Tue 06 Oct 2009 08:33 PM

Kuwait's Kharafi Group, which has inked a deal with Asian investors to sell a 46 percent stake in
Zain

, could sell a majority stake in the telecoms firm if needed, a senior Kharafi official said on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Chairman of Indian telecom Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, which is part of a consortium that is seeking a stake in
Zain

, was quoted as saying potential buyers want a controlling stake, more than 50 percent, in
Zain

.

"Nothing has been addressed to us officially yet, but we heard about that (report)," Kharafi's Group vice chairman Bader al-Kharafi told Reuters.

"If they ask for more (than the 46 percent), we can work on it," he said, adding more shares would be obtained from the market. He gave no further details.

Family conglomerate Kharafi owns an 11.28 percent stake in the telecoms firm through one of its units, according to bourse data, but analysts estimate Kharafi's stake to be around 20 percent through other firms it controls.

Last month, Kharafi Group said it had agreed to sell a 46 percent stake to a consortium led by India's Vavasi Group and including state-run regional telecoms BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam, as well as Malaysian billionaire Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary.

The group will pay 2 dinars a share for
Zain

, valuing the stake in the Arab world's third largest telecommunications company at about $13.7 billion, making it one of the biggest overseas acquisitions of a Gulf region company.

On Monday, Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund said it might consider selling shares in
Zain

, in which it holds a 24.6 percent stake, though the fund is not party to talks between stockholders of the telecom firm and potential buyers.

Kharafi said there were no talks now with the wealth fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority, for its stake in
Zain

, but they could approach the KIA if there was a need.

"At the moment there is no reason to talk to them (KIA). If something came up and anyone asked for a bigger stake or something, then yes," he said, adding that he is confident Kharafi would be able to secure the 46 percent stake put up for sale.

On Sept. 16, Kharafi Group appealed to other small shareholders to join the consortium of sellers. In advertisements in local Kuwaiti papers, a firm owned by Kharafi urged shareholders who own no more than 300,000 shares in
Zain

as of Sept. 6 to join the offer.

On Monday, the Chief Executive of
Zain

said the firm halted talks to sell its African assets to appease potential buyers of the 46 percent stake in
Zain Group

.

Zain

's stock ended almost flat at 1.36 dinars on Tuesday. (Reuters)

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