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Zain to swoop on European market

Kuwait's incumbent telco signals intention to enter Europe.

Kuwait's Zain has signaled its intention to move into the European telco market with local press reports indicating it may happen as soon as next year.

Speaking at a telecoms conference hosted in Dubai, company CEO Saad Al Barrak confirmed that Zain might sell off more shares in order to finance the planned move.

"We are interested, depending on the asset," he said. "We're talking late 2008, early 2009, as that's when we will be in a financial stage and have management foundations with which we can go after European assets."

He also confirmed that discussions were under way "at the board level" about the financing of such a move, adding that "very soon there will be an announcement".

Zain recently posted its Q307 results with revenues for the quarter totaling $4.27 billion and a reported customer base of 36.47 million, across 22 countries, as of the end of September 2007.

Commenting on the results Al Barrak said: "We have invested heavily in the upgrading of networks and facilities in both our African and Middle East operations, necessary expenditure to support customer growth and more importantly customer service."

Zain recently penned a network-sharing agreement with Etisalat-backed Mobily to aid its impending Saudi Arabian launch. The Kuwait-based company also announced that it hoped to raise $1.9 billion through the sell-off of 40% of shares in its Saudi operation.

Saudi Zain CEO Marwan Al-Ahmadi said the proceeds would be used to fund its start up in the kingdom. "We hope the IPO will be within the next two to three months," he said. "Our application, which is complete, is with the Capital Market Authority right now."

The terms of the IPO were dictated to the Kuwaiti company as part of its licensing agreement and will be managed by Banque Saudi Fransi, the kingdom's third-biggest lender.