x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Kingdom Holding extends offer for Zain's Saudi division

As the deadline for his bid to acquire 25 per cent in telecom firm Zain's Saudi unit looms, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has extended his offer for a second time.

BARCELONA // Kingdom Holding, the investment company owned by the billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has extended its offer for Zain's Saudi Arabian unit for a second time.

Kingdom Holding's recent offer for a 25 per cent stake in Zain's Saudi Arabian unit was due to expire yesterday but has been granted permission by Zain's board of directors to be extended until Wednesday at 5pm in Riyadh, the company said in a statement to the Saudi bourse yesterday.

The investment company had already extended its original offer for Zain Saudi Arabia.

A competing bid for Zain Saudi Arabia by Batelco, the incumbent telecommunications operator in Bahrain, also has a deadline of Wednesday.

Zain's controlling stake in its Saudi unit is valued at about 2.78 billion riyals (Dh2.72bn). Eight Saudi Arabian companies own another 25 per cent, while the state pension fund owns 3.5 per cent. The other 46 per cent is floated on the Tadawul.

Last month, Kingdom Holding said it had delivered a "non-binding offer" and preliminary expression of interest to Zain's board of directors to acquire the stake in its Saudi Arabian subsidiary.

Batelco made a similar offer last Thursday.

The subsidiary has been one of the focal points of Etisalat's takeover bid for the parent company.

Etisalat, the UAE's largest telecoms operator, has offered more than US$11bn (Dh40.4bn) for a 51 per cent stake in Zain in a deal worth 1.7 dinars a share.

Etisalat already operates in Saudi Arabia under the Mobily brand and acquiring the Zain unit would not be allowed by the country's telecoms regulators.

Neither Batelco or Kingdom Holding have disclosed how much their offers are worth.

If Zain's board of directors choose the offer from Kingdom Holding, it would be the company's first investment in the telecoms sector.

But Batelco already operates Etihad Atheeb, a Wimax service in the kingdom that has about 24 per cent of the country's wireless broadband market.