India’s Reliance Communications (RCom) is the latest name to be linked to an acquisition of Zain’s African mobile networks. Times of India reports that the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), the majority shareholder in Zain with a 24.61 percent share, has held talks with the Indian operator. According to unnamed sources, RCom has had advisors in place in South Africa since its failed merger with South Africa’s MTN last summer and officials are said to have visited the country last month. Bloomberg reports that Zain’s stock closed yesterday at its highest level in 11 months after reports emerged of the talks with RCom, though neither operator has yet to confirm the speculation. According to Wireless Intelligence data, RCom is India’s second-largest operator with 79.6 million connections (both GSM and CDMA) by end-2Q09.
Reports earlier this week had said that Zain was in talks with three firms regarding the planned sale of its African mobile operations, noting that one of them was from India. The other name linked with the sale is Zain’s rival operator group in the Middle East, the UAE-based Etisalat, which is thought to be interested in taking a stake in Zain at the group level. “Etisalat is looking at a 51 percent stake in Zain,” a source told Times of India. The African mobile businesses up for sale (which do not include its operations in Morroco and the Sudan) represent about 62 percent of Zain’s 64.7 million customers and are valued as high as US$12 billion in total. Click here for Wireless Intelligence’s recent ‘Snapshot’ analysis on the sale.