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29 November 2023

Cukurova in talks for $7.89bln Zain stake: TV

The synergies between Zain and Etisalat are much stronger and a better fit than those between Zain and Turkcell. (REUTERS)

By Reuters

Turkey's Cukurova Holding is in talks to buy 29.9 per cent of Kuwaiti telecom Zain for $7.89 billion, CNBC Arabiya reported, just days ahead of a deadline for Etisalat's $12 billion bid.

Cukurova has offered 1.72 dinars per share, or 2.22 billion dinars, for the stake, CNBC said. The group controls Turkcell, which earlier in 2010 was reported to be interested in Zain, but later denied any interest.

The report follows a visit to Kuwait this week by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Abu Dhabi's Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) in September offered to buy 46 per cent of Zain for 1.7 dinars per share. The offer was made to one of Zain's major shareholders, Kharafi Group.

But Etisalat, the Gulf's No. 2 telecoms group, said in November that its proposed deal could fail if definitive transaction documents were not signed by Jan. 15, when it completes its due diligence.

A deal between Etisalat and Zain is also dependent on the sale of Zain's Saudi assets for anti-trust reasons.

A Zain board member told CNBC Arabiya that no final agreement had been reached with Cukurova.

"Are there negotiations? Yes, we're negotiating with more than one party," Sheikh Khalifa Ali al-Khalifa al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait's ruling family and a Zain board member, told the channel.

Irfan Ellam, telecoms analyst at Al Mal Capital, said the Cukurova offer could throw a spanner in the works for Etisalat, but doubted the commercial logic.

"The synergies between Zain and Etisalat are much stronger and a better fit than those between Zain and Turkcell," he said.

"Etisalat's bid would give it majority control of Zain as treasury shares do not have a vote, so it doesn't make sense that Cukurova would pay a premium for a minority shareholding," he added.