x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Saudi billionaire prince extends bid for Zain unit

Breaking News: 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.

Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), the investment firm run by billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, extended its offer for Zain's Saudi Arabian unit for the second time, the company said in a statement to the Saudi bourse today.

KHC's recent offer for a 25 per cent stake in Zain's Saudi Arabian unit was due to expire today but it has been granted permission by the company's board of directors to extend it until Wednesday at 5pm in Riyadh.

KHC has already extended its original offer for Zain Saudi Arabia after its original offer on January 31 ended one week later.

The investment firm's deadline matches a similar date from a competing bid for Zain Saudi Arabia by Batelco,  the incumbent telecommunications operator in Bahrain.

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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 of Zain while the state pension fund owns 3.5 per cent and the remaining 46 per cent is floated on the Tadawul.

Last month, KHC said it delivered a "non-binding offer" and a 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.

Zain's subsidiary in the kingdom has been one of the focal points of Etisalat's takeover bid of its parent company.

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

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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 KHC have disclosed how much their offer for the 25 per cent of Zain Saudi Arabia is worth.

If Zain's board of directors choose KHC's offer, it would be the firm's first investment into the telecoms sector. However, Batelco already operates a Wimax service in the kingdom called Etihad Atheeb that has about 24 per cent of the country's wireless broadband market.

dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae