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Zain keen to keep Bahrain unit after IPO

Manama, December 1, 2013

Telecom operator Zain wants to retain majority control of its Bahraini subsidiary after the unit's initial public offering, but has yet to agree the exact terms of the share sale, the Kuwaiti firm's chief executive said on Sunday.

Zain Bahrain must float 15 per cent of its shares and list on Bahrain's bourse by year-end.

Zain holds a 56.3 per cent stake in the company, so Zain would no longer be majority owner should existing shareholders be required to sell shares in the IPO on a proportional basis.

"We're still having a discussion as to whether it will be (a) primary or secondary (listing) and what the dilution factor will be," Scott Gegenheimer, Zain's chief executive told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai.

"We prefer not to go below 50 per cent because we want to make sure we stay with a controlling interest."

Zain Bahrain's other shareholders include chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Abdulla al-Khalifa, owner of a 16.3 per cent stake, and Vodafone, which holds 6.1 per cent, according to Zawya, a Thomson Reuters company.

Bahrain's second mobile licence was awarded to Zain in 2003 - ending Bahrain Telecommunications Company's (Batelco) monopoly - and the unit had planned to launch an IPO in 2008, only for the share sale to be abandoned.

Zain Bahrain's licence stipulates it must conduct an IPO within a decade of the licence award, Gegenheimer said.

"We're doing everything we can to fulfil the requirements of the licence," he said.

Gegenheimer acknowledged Zain Bahrain was running out of time to launch the share sale by year-end, but said Zain still aimed to meet the deadline.

"Procedure-wise, we have most of the clearances we need," said Gegenheimer. "We've appointed the lawyers, investment bankers, underwriters, so most of the work is already done."

As well as Batelco, Zain Bahrain is also vying for customers with Saudi Telecom Company unit Viva Bahrain and about 10 internet service providers, making the island kingdom among the most competitive telecom markets in the Middle East.

Zain Bahrain's net profit for the nine months to September 30 fell 22.9 per cent from a year earlier to $10 million, according to Zain's financial statements.

This drop was largely due to a 44 per cent increase in capital expenditure as the company, which claims a 37 per cent market share, upgrades its network.-Reuters

Tags: Kuwait | Zain | Telecom operator |

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