LONDON Kuwait-based telecoms operator Zain (ZAIN.KW) confirmed on Sunday it was close to sealing a deal with Vodafone (VOD.L) that would allow the global telecoms group access to its Middle East networks.
"Zain Group is at an advanced stage in negotiations towards reaching a strategic partnership agreement with Vodafone," the company said in a statement.
"Vodafone has more than 40 partnerships of this nature worldwide whereby customers benefit from their global scale and the in-country operator's local expertise. This is a non-equity deal."
The agreement would cover several countries in the region including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain, allowing Vodafone to offer its customers from other countries lower roaming fees when travelling in the region, Reuters reported on Friday, citing a person familiar with the situation.
Vodafone, the world's biggest mobile operator by sales, has been seeking new agreements with local operators to spread its coverage while avoiding expensive buyouts or heavy investments.
Zain has mobile network operating licences in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Sudan, Iraq and Jordan, while Vodafone's presence in the region is limited to Qatar, Egypt and Libya.
Zain said it would provide more details on the partnership in the next few months.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Paul Sandle; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)