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Zain and Bharti to ink deal on Tuesday

KUWAIT CITY, Mar 29 – Kuwait\’s Zain telecom and India\’s top mobile firm Bharti Airtel are expected to sign a 10.7 billion dollar deal for the sale of Zain\’s African assets on Tuesday, a Kuwaiti daily reported.

Citing unnamed informed sources, Al-Watan daily said the signing ceremony "will take place on Tuesday at the headquarters of Zain Africa," in Amsterdam.

Zain entered the African telecom market in 2005 by acquiring the operations of the Dutch Celtel firm for around 3.5 billion dollars.

Zain\’s chairman Asaad al-Banwan and CEO Nabil bin Salamah were due to leave Kuwait for Amsterdam later on Monday to sign the deal, the paper said.

Bharti and Kuwait\’s largest mobile operator Zain said in separate statements last week that they have finalised agreement for the sale of Zain\’s operations in 15 African nations.

After the signing, the two companies will move towards getting any required approvals, Zain said.

The sale of the African assets does not include Zain’s operation in Sudan or its investment in Morocco.

The value of the deal includes 1.7 billion dollars of debt that the Indian telecom giant will assume.

Bharti is due to pay 8.3 billion dollars on signature of the deal, while the remaining 700 million dollars will be paid a year later.

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Bharti Airtel, the largest Indian mobile phone operator, said last week it had raised the 8.3 billion dollars, mainly from international banks.

If the deal goes through, Bharti, which already has 125 million Indian subscribers, would get 42 million clients in 15 African countries from Burkina Faso to Zambia, while Zain clients will shrink to 30 million from 72 million.

Zain had said that it expects to post returns of up to five billion dollars from the deal.

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