Bharti Airtel Bidding US$10.7B for Zain's Africa Mobile Ops

Bharti Airtel, India's largest mobile phone service provider, is in exclusive discussions to buy the African operations of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co. (known as Zain), in a deal with an enterprise value of US$10.7 billion, the Indian company said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Zain said it has received an offer for its mobile telecommunications operations in Africa, excluding Morocco and Sudan, without naming the bidder nor providing further details.

Bharti Airtel said the two companies have agreed to enter exclusive discussions until March 25 over the deal for Zain Africa BV.

The Kuwaiti mobile service provider, known by the name Zain, operates in a number of countries in Africa, including Burkina Faso, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The company reported total mobile subscribers stood at 71.8 million at the end of September, 2009, but that figure includes its assets in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq.

Bharti Airtel ended 2009 with 125.3 million subscribers and 2008 - 2009 revenue of roughly US$7.8 billion, according to its Web site.

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