Monday, August 10, 2009
Zain Denies It's In Talks With Asian Group
* Zain says unaware of stake sale talks after report
* Shares close 1.6 percent higher
Kuwaiti telecoms firm Zain said on Sunday it was not aware of talks between shareholders and an Asian group after a newspaper reported stake sale negotiations.
The firm said in July that it was still reviewing a possible sale of its African operations -- excluding Morocco and Sudan -- after French media and telecoms conglomerate Vivendi broke off talks on buying the operations.
Kuwait's Al-Rai newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said on Sunday that Zain's largest shareholders were in talks with a major Asian telecoms group to sell more than 40 percent of the firm.
"Zain would like to clarify that regarding what has been published in a local newspaper about negotiations between a major Asian group and shareholders, the executive management of the company is not aware of this subject, which is up to shareholders," Zain said in a statement on the bourse website.
Sovereign wealth fund Kuwait Investment Authority owns 24.61 percent of Zain. Kuwaiti family-owned conglomerate Kharafi Group is Zain's second largest shareholder, with 13.3 percent.
Neither KIA nor Kharafi were immediately available for comment. A Zain spokesman declined to comment further.
Zain ended 1.6 percent higher on the bourse on Sunday.
"There is an enormous amount of rumours about Zain," said Naser al-Nafisi, general manager at Al Joman Center for Economic consultancy in Kuwait. "If there's anything going on between the shareholders, the management should know about it."
The newspaper, which did not identify the Asian group, cited unidentified sources as saying that the biggest shareholders in Zain had "the ability and the suitable mechanism to provide the required majority stake".
Sale talk has swirled around Zain in recent weeks.
The head of the international unit of Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) said in July that the UAE firm was interested in buying a 51-percent stake in Zain, "given the right values".
Zain said on July 1 that it was working with Swiss investment bank UBS and other consultants to review its strategy as a result of the global financial downturn.