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Bharti will sign letter of intent over Zain deal

Kuwaiti telecoms firm Zain and India’s Bharti Airtel are expected to sign a letter of intent for their $9bn (£5.8bn) African assets deal this week.

The letter will include the official offer and the schedule of payment.

Bharti is in exclusive talks until 25 March to buy Zain’s African business, excluding
Morocco and Sudan. It is the Indian firm’s third attempt at gaining a foothold in a continent that offers a lasting opportunity for major subscriber growth.

It is also believed Bharti will meet on Sunday with a Kuwaiti Islamic lender about financing the deal.

Bharti had said it will have clarity by next week on funding its offer for Zain’s operations in 15 African countries. The two firms have agreed on an enterprise value of $10.7bn for the assets, including $1.7bn of debt on Zain Africa’s books.

The deal marks one of the biggest cross-border transactions in the Middle East in years and a turning point in the long-running saga around Zain, the third-biggest telecoms operator in the region.

Bharti has suffered recent setbacks in its Indian business, including delays in its plans to expand its 3G capabilities.