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Etisalat eyeing 51% stake in Zain

Telco seems eager to embark on spending spree after expressing interest in Zain majority stake and bidding for a mobile licence in Libya

UAE telco Etisalat has expressed its interest in acquiring a 51% majority stake in Kuwait’s Zain Group and is pushing forward with its expansion plans by bidding for a mobile and fixed licence in Libya.

"We are interested in Zain as a whole given the right values ... We need to sort out the overlap in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria," chief executive of the Etisalat’s international unit Jamal Al-Jarwan confirmed to Reuters today. "We overlap with Zain in many countries, but overall we're looking at it.”

But that’s not all. The UAE telco is also bidding for a fixed and mobile licence in Libya in a bid to boost its customer base in North Africa. It’s believed that the company would be willing to invest atleast $500 million in the network if it won the licence.

"It is part of our strategy for expansion...We have no investments in North Africa (besides Egypt) so this is a first step," the Etisalat’s CFO, Salem Ali Al-Sharhan, told Reuters.

While Zain has so far refused to comment on Etisalat’s interest in buying a majority stake, the Kuwaiti conglomerate has been in the news lately because of its desire to sell off its African operations. It faced a setback yesterday when French media and telecoms giant Vivendi called off talks to buy a majority stake in the unit.