Kuwait-based telecoms group Zain has indicated that it will look to expand its operations in emerging markets if the planned deal to sell a 46% stake in the company to Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) falls through, Bloomberg reports. Chief operating officer Barrak al-Sabeeh commented: ‘As of now, because of the non-clarity of the Etisalat deal, we should just keep our focus on what we have. Once things are clear, we will definitely look into good opportunities to expand. The way going forward is to expand. Most of the operations we have are saturated. So you should look into emerging markets or new licences in some of the tempting markets, such as the Far East, Indian subcontinent, Eastern Europe, Lebanon’.
It is believed that Zain is more interested in acquiring operations already in existence, rather than starting from scratch in any of the aforementioned regions. Al-Sabeeth added: ‘We are managing our operations, business as usual, regardless of the sale. If it happens, they take a clean-cut operation. If it doesn’t, at least we did not tamper with our business. The challenge for this year and next is huge, especially in the saturated markets of Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan. Sudan and Iraq are the two areas where we are expecting growth because penetration hasn’t reached 100%’.
Earlier this week Etisalat confirmed that it intends to continue working towards securing a USD12 billion deal for a stake in Zain, despite that fact that a lack of information resulted in the two firms missing out on a long-standing 15 January due diligence deadline. As reported in CommsUpdate in late September 2010, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat offered KWD1.70 (USD6) a share for a 46% stake in Zain, taking the total value of the transaction up to around USD12 billion.