Bharti buys Zain's African assets for $11b: WSJ

Nicole McCormick
15 Feb 2010

Bharti Airtel has finally snared a big offshore deal, with Kuwaiti-based Zain Telecom accepting its $10.7 billion bid for its African mobile assets.

Zain’s board approved the deal yesterday, giving the Indian cellco a customer base of more than 70 million across Africa and the Middle East, the WSJ Onlinereported.

Zain confirmed in a statement on Saturday that it had received “an offer in relation to its operations in Africa excluding Morocco and Sudan.”

Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai on Saturday reported that Bharti Airtel had bid $10.7 billion for the former pan-African networks of Celtel - bought by Zain in 2005 for just $3.4 billion.

For Bharti, securing mobile operations in fast growing Africa is key to its growth strategy as growth slows in its home market. It has twice failed in its attempts to merge with South African behemoth MTN in the past two years.

Zain has been trying to sell its African networks for more than 12 months. Alternatively, the firm was looking at taking on a strategic investor.

Last week, Zain’s CEO Saad Al Barrak resigned amid controversy with the firm’s largest shareholder the Kharafi Group.

Late last year, the Kharafi Group reportedly signed a preliminary deal with a consortium ,led by Delhi-based property group Vavasi, which was angling for up to a 46% stake in Zain.

The consortium was believed to be trying to get China Mobile to join it in its bid for Zain.

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