Zain delays move on Batelco, Kingdom bids: source

KUWAIT Thu Feb 17, 2011 2:26am EST

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti telco Zain (ZAIN.KW) on Wednesday delayed until Saturday a decision on bids from Kingdom Holding 4280.SE and Batelco BTEL.BH for its Saudi assets after the offers were improved, a source close to Zain said.

A $12 billion takeover of Zain (ZAIN.KW) by the UAE's Etisalat ETEL.AD depends on the sale of the assets in Zain Saudi 7030.SE, because of regulatory requirements.

The source close to Zain told Reuters that the company's board decided to delay until February 19 a decision on the bids from Saudi Arabia's Kingdom and Bahrain's Batelco.

"The two companies have come forward with enhancements to their previous offers," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The board saw that it should (allow) the executive committee and financial experts to look at the enhancements."

Both companies had earlier made offers for the 25 percent stake in Zain Saudi, valued at around $741 million, without announcing how much they would pay.

Jamal al Jarwan, who heads Etisalat's international investments, said earlier on Wednesday he saw at least a 60 percent chance of sealing the deal for a controlling stake in Zain once the due diligence has been completed.

The Etisalat deal is championed by Kuwaiti family-owned conglomerate Kharafi group, a major Zain shareholder.

Regional operators are wrestling with lower margins at home due to new competition in liberalized markets and financing costs for acquisitions and new licenses abroad.

(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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