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Etisalat sees Zain due diligence done by end Feb

Etisalat says making 'good progress' with due diligence; UAE firm 'highly confident' it will get needed financing

January 29, 2011 2:40 by

Etisalat, which is bidding to buy a 46-percent stake in Kuwaiti telco Zain, expects to present the results of its due diligence to its board by the end of February, the UAE telecoms firm said in a statement on Saturday.

Etisalat also said talks with 18 international and regional banks on financing the $12 billion purchase continued and it was “highly confident” it will secure the necessary financing.

Etisalat is looking at a three-part financing arrangement for the deal with a $6 billion 18-month bridge loan, to be replaced by bond financing, as well as a $3 billion three-year portion and a $3-billion five-year segment, bankers said.

The Abu Dhabi-based firm, which missed a self-imposed January 15 deadline to complete due diligence, said the process had accelerated recently.

Etisalat “wishes to reach a final agreement as soon as practically possible,” Chairman Mohammed Omran said in the statement.

The Gulf’s second biggest telecoms firm, which is 60-percent owned by the Abu Dhabi government and is keen to expand outside its home market, offered to buy the Zain stake for 1.7 Kuwaiti dinars a share last September. The offer was made to one of Zain’s major shareholders, Kuwaiti family conglomerate Kharafi Group.

The deal has been dogged by hurdles, including a lawsuit by a Zain shareholder unhappy with the process — the case was dismissed in December — and the emergence of a rival bid.

In January, CNBC Arabiya reported that Turkey’s Cukurova Holding is in talks to buy 29.9 percent of Zain for $7.89 billion.

Zain must sell its 25-percent stake in Zain Saudi as a condition of the Etisalat deal. South Africa’s MTN and Bahrain Telecommunications have both expressed interest in the stake and UBS has been appointed to run the process, sources familiar with the situation said previously.

Last week, other sources said Zain Saudi Chief Executive Saad al-Barak is also eyeing a plan to buy the stake.

(Reporting by Amran Abocar; Editing by Sami Aboudi)

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