Saudi Telecom in acquisition talks

Arab telecom says it is set for 'major' foreign acquisition, its second outside its home market.

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By  Reuters Published  September 5, 2007

Saudi Telecom Co, the largest Arab telecom firm by market value, is in talks to make a "major" foreign acquisition, its second outside its home market, a company director said on Wednesday.

Saudi Telecom agreed in June to buy 25% of Malaysia's Maxis and 51% of its Indonesian unit in a $3 billion deal to gain access to Indonesia and India in what would be Southeast Asia's biggest buyout.

The director, who asked not to be identified, said the acquisition would be "major", declining to give details in a telephone interview with Reuters.

Company spokesman Qusai al-Fawaz could not immediately confirm the information. "We have no information about this," he said.

Saudi Telecom and Binariang, Maxis Communications' biggest shareholder, will underwrite a $900 million loan to expand in India where Maxis operates through its Aircel unit.

It also said last month that it planned to bid for 26% of the third mobile licence in Kuwait, joining regional rivals in a race to tap the telecom market of the Middle East's fourth-largest oil producer.

"There are two things we are working on: The Kuwaiti licence and a major foreign acquisition under negotiation," the director told Reuters.

He said the board has yet to make a decision on bidding for the privatisation of state-owned Algerie Telecom.

"It's something that fits with the (Saudi Telecom's) strategy, but no decision has been made yet," the director said.

Kuwait-based daily al-Jarida said in July Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co. (MTC) is considering a bid for a stake in Algerie Telecom.

French operator France Telecom said in April that it was considering bidding in the privatisation and Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (Etisalat) said in January it was prepared to pay up to $3 billion for a stake in the Algerian company.

Saudi Telecom withdrew from the race to buy 35% of Tunisie Telecom in 2006.

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