Zain to Focus on Gulf and Middle East

Kuwaiti telecoms firm Zain (ZAIN.KW), which is selling its African assets to India's Bharti Airtel, will concentrate on the Gulf and Middle East region and is open to new investments, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

On Feb 16, Zain said it would pocket up to $5 billion from the planned sale of its African assets, excluding Sudan and Morocco, to Bharti Airtel in a $9 billion deal and use the rest to pay down debt. Nabil bin Salama, who took over the chief executive post earlier this month, said returns from the sale of most of its African assets will provide it with the cash for possible new investments.

Bin Salama said Zain has gained a strong foothold in the Middle Eastern market during its expansion period under the group's outgoing chief executive Saad al-Barrak. Its client base in seven Arab countries is over 31 million, he said.

He said the company's share in the Iraqi market could be increased, and Zain "expects a lot from the Saudi market" despite tough competition." The Sudanese and Lebanese markets were also promising, he added.

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