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Zain denies Syria acquisition

Kuwaiti operator says it is not in 'advanced' talks over Syriatel Mobile Telecom acquisition.

Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Company (Zain) denied it was in any "advanced" talks over acquisition plans after a newspaper reported on Tuesday it was looking at taking over Syriatel Mobile Telecom.

Al-Qabas said Zain, the third-largest Arab telecom firm by market value, was in "advanced talks" to buy 51% of Syriatel, citing unidentified sources.

"Zain always pursues acquisitions of companies in several places and has not reached advanced talks on any of them," Zain said in a statement on the Kuwait bourse website.

Zain, which operates in about 20 countries, is looking to expand its international operations to counter rising competition at home, where Saudi Telecom Company is to set up the country's third mobile phone company.

"Al-Qabas has learned that advanced talks are going on for Zain to acquire a 51% stake in Syriatel," the newspaper reported. It gave no other details.

Syriatel has 2.3 million customers and a 55% market share in Syria, according to its website. Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf controls Syriatel.

Turkey's largest mobile phone operator Turkcell said last month it had decided to bid for Syriatel and was looking to buy at least 51% of the company.

Zain shares, which gained almost 7% this month, were down 1.96% at 0631 GMT. (Reuters)