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Zain denies Vodafone interest

British telecoms group not in talks to buy 'significant or majority' stake in Kuwait operator, Zain says

Britain's Vodafone Group is not in talks to buy a "significant or majority" stake in Kuwait operator Zain, a Zain official said on Thursday.

Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Seyassah, reported that Vodafone and a second telecom company - identified in Arabic as "Telecom Telecommunications" - were interested in buying a stake in Zain, the third-largest Arab telecom operator by market value.

The newspaper did not cite any sources but said a foreign bank was in initial talks with a Zain shareholder on behalf of Vodafone and the other telecoms company. The Kuwait government owns just under 25% of Zain.

"Vodafone is not in negotiations to buy either a significant or majority stake in Zain," said the official, who did not want to be identified. The official declined to say if Vodafone was seeking any stake.

The price being discussed is around 8 dinars ($29.32) per share, the paper said. Zain's stock, which has rallied almost 15% during the last two weeks, traded at 4.32 dinars, down 0.5% by 0733 GMT.

"Short of clarity, the stock will continue to be volatile," said Ali Taqi, senior manager for capital markets at National Bank of Kuwait.

Zain is not aware of any talks related to a stake changing hands, it said in a statement on the Kuwait bourse website on Thursday.

Vodafone is Zain's partner in operations in Bahrain.