Kuwaiti court allows etisalat’s due diligence on Zain

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait’s commercial court allowed due diligence to proceed on Emirates Telecommunications Corpration’s planned purchase of 46 per cent of Kuwaiti phone company Zain, denying a minority shareholder’s effort to halt the transaction.

By (Bloomberg)

Published: Thu 23 Dec 2010, 11:11 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:10 AM

Al Fawares Holding Company, which owns 4.5 per cent of Zain, sued the company and its second-largest shareholder, Al Khair National for Stocks & Real Estate Company, as well as sale manager National Investments Company in early December to prevent Emirates Telecommunications from gaining access to the Kuwaiti phone operator’s data.

Judges rejected the lawsuit, a court clerk, who is not allowed to be identified under national legal rules, told reporters on Wednesday at the Palace of Justice in Kuwait City.

Etisalat, as Emirates Telecommunications is known, announced an offer on September 30 of 1.70 Kuwaiti dinars ($6) a share for a controlling stake in Zain, whose official name is Mobile Telecommunications Company. Excluding treasury stock, the holding would amount to 51 per cent of share capital and voting rights, according to a preliminary agreement that Abu Dhabi- based etisalat and Al Khair reached in early November.

Al Khair, which is owned by Kuwait’s Kharafi Group and is leading the stake sale, said on November 3 that the transaction is subject to some conditions, including Zain’s disposal of its operations in Saudi Arabia, where etisalat already holds mobile- phone assets.

Al Fawares Holding said in the lawsuit that Zain Saudi Arabia “shouldn’t be sold or handled in a manner that would benefit shareholders who are part of the deal” at the expense of Zain’s other investors, according to a court document. Al Fawares asked the court to halt the due diligence, cancel any procedures based on the information obtained and annul Zain’s board decision in November that allowed the process.

Shaikh Khalifa Ali Al Sabah, an Al-Fawares’s representative, said by phone following the ruling that the company plans further legal action “in the next couple of days” to prevent the Saudi division’s sale. Zain Saudi Arabia rose as much as 8.6 per cent, to SR8.25, the biggest intraday jump since May 22, and was up 5.3 per cent as of 2:14pm in Riyadh trading. The Zain parent company’s Kuwaiti stock was unchanged at 1,520 fils.

Al Khair holds 12.7 percent of Zain while the Kuwait Investment Authority sovereign-wealth fund owns 24.6 per cent, according to Bloomberg data.

A purchase would allow etisalat, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest phone carrier, to extend its reach in the Middle East by adding assets in countries such as Iraq and Bahrain as well as Kuwait, where Zain is the dominant operator. Etisalat said on December 19 that the bid for Zain is “still on.”

Etisalat offers phone services in 18 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, counting more than 100 million customers, according to its website. The seven emirates comprising the UAE make up about 86 per cent of etisalat’s sales. —

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