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Kuwait Zain confirms African assets

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 14 – Kuwait\’s Zain telecom on Sunday confirmed it has received an offer for its operations in 15 African nations but did not reveal the identity of the bidder.

The company said in a statement posted on the Kuwait Stock Exchange website that its board of directors will meet on Sunday to study the offer, also without revealing its value.

The KSE immediately suspended trading in the shares of its largest listed firm until it receives notification of the outcome of the meeting.

Kuwait\’s Al-Rai newspaper reported on Saturday that India\’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel has offered 10.7 billion dollars to buy Zain\’s African units, except in Sudan. Zain also said the deal does not include Morocco.

Zain entered the African market in 2005, buying the assets of Dutch Celtel for 3.5 billion dollars.

Later, Zain made key acquisitions in several other African nations, including Nigeria.

Zain also operates in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia as well as Kuwait.

Zain\’s share price rose more than 20 percent and its capitalisation gained three billion dollars to 16.1 billion dollars over the sale reports.

Last summer, Zain declined an offer from French telecom and media group Vivendi, reportedly at between 10 billion and 11 billion dollars, saying the price was below expectation.

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Earlier this month, Zain accepted the resignation of Saad al-Barrak as its CEO. On Thursday, it appointed former communications minister Nabil bin Salama to replace him.

Since joining the company in 2002, Barrak transformed Zain from a local company with less than one million subscribers to an international telecom firm operating in 23 nations with 72 million subscribers.

The process required massive investments that exceeded 12 billion dollars.

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