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Zain considers Libyan expansion

The Kuwaiti telecoms operator Zain has expressed an interest in a Libyan management contract

The Kuwaiti telecoms giant Zain is interested in bidding for a management contract in Libya, marking a return to expansion for Kuwait's largest mobile operator.

Asaad Ahmed Al Banwan, the chairman, expressed his intentions to head into Libya at the company's annual general meeting yesterday.

The Libyan government, under Muammar Qaddafi's regime intended to privatise the two state-owned mobile operators, Al Madar and Libyana, about three years ago but these plans were scuppered with the revolution.

Now the Libyan Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Company, the government body that runs the two operators, is offering up management contracts, similar to those in Lebanon.

"We have a study for Libya, we are considering the Libya market at the moment," Mr Al Banwan was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Zain sold off most of its assets in Africa to India's Bharti Airtel for US$9 billion (Dh33.06bn) in 2010. The company is likely to face competition from the UAE's Etisalat which has also expressed an interest in entering the Libyan market, where there is still room for growth.

Zain is also expecting the listing of its Iraqi operations on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) to be concluded by the end of this year, pushing its plans back by about six months.

"There have been difficulties and delays," said Mohammad Abdal, the communications and investor relations director at Zain Group. "These things take time, but we are aiming for the end of this year."

Zain Iraq is in the final stages of converting from a privately-held company to a joint stock one and is still awaiting approval from the Companies Registrar.

As part of the licence agreement issued in 2007 to all three Iraqi mobile operators, Zain Iraq is required to list 25 per cent of its shares on the ISX.

All three missed the August 2011 deadline. Asiacell is the only operator so far to have completed its offering, raising $1.24bn in February. Korek Telecom is also working on becoming a joint stock company, but the operator has yet to announce a time frame for its listing.



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