Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) has made an offer for a 25% stake in Zain Saudi Arabia, the firm’s CEO has confirmed. Peter Kaliaropoulos commented: ‘Batelco Group has submitted a confidential, non-binding offer to acquire Zain Group’s 25% stake in Zain Saudi Arabia. Our offer is subject to due diligence and a number of terms and conditions, including approvals from regulatory authorities such as Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) and Capital Market Authority (CMA), Zain Saudi Arabia board directors, and other relevant parties. Our offer remains valid until 16 February 2011’.
The CEO continued: ‘Any acquisition in the MENA region, or other growing markets – including a potential market like Saudi Arabia – can attract Batelco’s attention. We had hoped to increase our footprint in 2010 but the right opportunity did not materialise. To realise further growth and diversify our revenues, we need to increase our scale and invest in companies that are already established, but still offer growth in their markets. Looking to acquire new licences is not an option that we are considering’.
The sale of the Saudi Arabian cellco – in which Kuwait-based Zain holds a 25% stake, valued at USD756 million according to current prices – has arisen following UAE-based Emirates Telecommunications Company’s (Etisalat’s) non-binding offer worth around USD12 billion for a 46% stake in Zain Group. Etisalat already owns a controlling stake in Saudi’s second-placed mobile operator Mobily and its broadband unit Bayanat Al-Oula, so any transaction for Zain’s local assets would contravene local anti-monopoly regulations. Last week TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate reported that Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), an investment firm run by billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, made a non-binding offer for the 25% stake in Zain Saudi Arabia; the offer expired on Sunday 6 February.