Turkey’s Cukurova Holding has entered into talks to acquire a 29.9% stake in Kuwaiti telecoms firm Zain for USD7.89 billion, just days ahead of the 15 January deadline that had been set for UAE-based Etisalat’s USD12 billion takeover bid, Reuters reports. According to Turkish TV station CNBC Arabiya, Cukurova has offered KWD1.72 (USD6.1) per share, or KWD2.22 billion for the 29.9% stake. As previously reported in CommsUpdate, at the end of September 2010, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat offered KWD1.70 a share for a 46% stake in Zain.
In November 2010 Etisalat raised concerns that its proposed deal with Zain could fall through if definitive transaction documents were not signed by 15 January, when it is scheduled to complete due diligence. Any deal between Etisalat and Zain is also dependent on the sale of Zain’s Saudi Arabian assets, for anti-trust reasons; Etisalat already owns a controlling stake in Saudi’s second-placed mobile operator Mobily and its broadband unit Bayanat Al-Oula. Because approximately 10% of Zain’s shares are held as treasury stock, the projected deal would give Etisalat majority control of the company and extend its reach in the Middle East.
Sheikh Khalifa Ali al-Khalifa al-Sabah, a Zain board member, and also part of Kuwait’s ruling family, reportedly told CNBC Arabiya that no final agreement had been reached with Cukurova, commenting: ‘Are there negotiations? Yes, we’re negotiating with more than one party’. TeleGeography notes that Turkcell, of which 26.98% is indirectly owned by Cukurova Holding – through its co-ownership of Turkcell Holding – was linked with a bid for Zain in May 2010, but duly distanced itself from any takeover speculation.