India’s Bharat Sanchar Nigam and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam are interested in joining a consortium to buy up to 46 percent of telecoms group Zain, Kuwaiti conglomerate Kharafi Group said. Last month, Kharafi, a major shareholder in Zain, said it agreed to sell its estimated 20 percent stake, and an additional 26 percent from other stakeholders, to a consortium led by India’s Vavasi Group and including state-run regional telecoms BSNL and MTNL as well as Malaysian billionaire Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary. “The Kharafi Group… has received an official letter addressed to Vavasi stating that BSNL & MTNL’s are interested to participate in the proposal for buying up to 46 percent of Zain’s shares from the Kharafi group,” Kharafi’s Group vice-chairman Bader Al-Kharafi said in a statement on Saturday.
The group will pay 2 dinars a share for Zain, valuing the stake in the Arab world’s third largest telecommunications company at about $13.7 billion, Kharafi had said, making it one of the biggest overseas acquisitions of a Gulf region company. On Sept 10, BSNL and MTNL said they had yet to decide on joining the consortium. BSNL, which has cash reserves of more than $6 billion, needs the Indian government’s approval to make big investments. On Sept 16, Kharafi Group appealed to other small shareholders to join the consortium of sellers. In advertisements in local Kuwaiti papers, a firm owned by Kharafi urged shareholders who own no more than 300,000 shares in Zain as of Sept 6 to join the offer