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Sat 22 Mar 2008 04:13 PM

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Zain Saudi Arabia to launch operations by June

Kingdom's third mobile operator will initially cover 53% of population with own nextwork.

The Saudi affiliate of Kuwaiti telecom Zain plans to start operations by June this year, the company's chief executive told Al Arabiya television on Saturday.

Zain Saudi Arabia, the kingdom's third mobile phone company, started trading at 22 riyals on its debut on the Riyadh stock exchange.

"We will launch the service by the end of the first half of 2008 or by June... but this is subject to achieving quality standards," Marwan Al-Ahmadi told the television. He did not elaborate.

Zain sold shares in Zain Saudi Arabia, of which it owns 25%, at 10 riyals each in an initial public offering (IPO) in February that was 183% oversubscribed.

The company's network would initially only cover 53% of the population, but it will coordinate with rivals Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and Mobily to provide wider coverage, Al-Ahmadi said. He added that Zain planned to fully depend on its own infrastructure within three years.

Zain, which operates in about 20 countries, is expanding its overseas operations to counter rising competition at home, where STC is to set up the country's third mobile phone company. (Reuters)

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