KUWAIT CITY (AFP) – India’s largest mobile phone operator Bharti Airtel has offered 10.7 billion dollars (7.9 billion euros) to buy Kuwait’s Zain telecom operations in 15 African nations, a newspaper reported on Saturday.
Quoting unnamed “reliable sources,” Kuwait’s Al-Rai daily said the “official bid” was made at the Muslim weekend (Thursday) and will not include Zain’s totally-owned unit in Sudan.
Zain, Kuwait’s largest mobile operator, denied on Monday that it had received new offers for its African assets, a part of which was bought in 2005 from Dutch Celtel for 3.5 billion dollars.
Later, Zain made key acquisitions in several other African nations including Nigeria.
Zain also operates in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq in addition to Jordan and Lebanon.
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.
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 under 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.
In September, major shareholders Al-Khorafi Group signed an initial agreement to sell a 46-percent controlling stake worth 14 billion dollars to an Indo-Malaysian consortium that included two state-owned Indian telecom firms.
The deal was supposed to have been completed in four months. The deadline has passed without any progress, but the investors have stressed that the deal is not dead but will take more time.