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Zain, Bharti telecoms to sign African deal

KUWAIT CITY, Mar 25 – Kuwait\’s Zain telecom said on Thursday it expects to close a 10.7-billion-dollar deal with India\’s Bharti Airtel "within days" for the sale of its operations in 15 African countries.

"The (Zain) board is pleased to report that the due diligence process has been completed and that the parties are finalising definitive agreements, which are expected to be signed in the coming days," Zain said in a statement.

"Upon signing, the parties will move towards getting any required approvals," the Kuwaiti company said following a meeting of its board late on Wednesday.

The sale of the African operations does not include Zain’s operation in Sudan or its investment in Morocco, the company said.

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.

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

Bharti, which is 32-percent owned by Singapore Telecom, and Zain, Kuwait\’s biggest mobile phone company, agreed last month to hold exclusive talks until March 25 to conclude the deal.

The takeover will be one of India\’s biggest cross-border deals and will give Bharti a significant foothold in the African cellular market, where just 36 out of every 100 people own a mobile phone.

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

Zain, which began its investments in Africa about five years ago, had said that it expects to post returns of up to five billion dollars from the deal.

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