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Zain to acquire 31% stake in Wana

Zain set to gain foothold in Morocco after agreeing to invest in Wana.

Mobile operator Zain is set to expand its presence in North Africa after agreeing to acquire a 31% stake in Wana, Morocco's third mobile operator, for US$324 million.

Zain said it will make the acquisition as part of a 50/50 partnership with Al Ajial Investment Fund Holding. The two companies will invest $324 million through a newly established joint venture called Zain Al Ajial in return for 31% of Wana.

The investment by Zain and Al Ajial will provide Wana, which recently won Morocco's third mobile licence, with the funding it needs to launch its GSM network later in the year, while Zain will also assist Wana with the deployment of its new network.

Wana, which is a subsidiary of Moroccan business conglomerate ONA, provides fixed wireless services including internet and some limited range mobile services in Morocco. The operator was awarded Morocco's third GSM licence in February, and will compete with the country's two existing mobile operators, Maroc Telecom and Meditel.

"Alongside ONA, the largest conglomerate in Morocco and its main shareholder SNI, we look forward to assisting Wana to capitalise on its demonstrated track record of introducing innovative products to the Moroccan community and to share the substantial growth opportunities that lie ahead as Wana launches its new GSM offering," said Dr. Saad Al Barrak, CEO, Zain.

"With 22.5 million mobile customers representing about 70% penetration, Morocco is an exciting new region for Zain to extend our footprint to 23 countries."

Karim Zaz, CEO, Wana, said that Zain and Al Ajial will provide Wana with the "right combination of long-term financial investment and operational resources" to help make Wana's mobile operation a success.

Along with the investment, Wana and Zain will enter into an operating framework agreement that will give Wana the possibility to access Zain's expertise, purchasing power, products and services, including Zain's ‘One Network', which already offers 500 million people in 17 countries mobile communications across geographical borders without roaming call surcharges.

The deal is likely to benefit both operators, with Zain gaining access to a country with a population of 30 million people and a mobile penetration rate of 72%, while Wana will benefit from Zain's experience and ‘One Network', which could prove to be a significant drawing card in a market already home to two mobile operators.