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Zain takes control of Iraqi operator

Middle Eastern carrier Zain has increased its ownership stake in Zain Iraq from 30 per cent to 62 per cent, the company said over the weekend.

Zain increased its stake through a pre-agreed call option with the owners of Athir National in Bahrain, which is one of the three founders of Atheer Telecom Iraq, now known as Zain Iraq.

The Kuwaiti firm paid a total of $34.47m for the stake, which gives it control of the country’s leading mobile provider with over 8.5 million customers.

Zain has been providing mobile telephony in Iraq since December 2003, previously operating under the name of MTC-Atheer. In August 2007, the company acquired a 15 year nationwide licence for $ 1.25bn, shortly followed by the acquisition of Iraqna for $1.2bn in December, 2007.

In January of this year, Zain merged Atheer with Iraqna under the new brand name Zain Iraq.

The deal forms an essential part of Zain’s strategy to become a top ten global mobile operator by 2011, either through majority ownership or management control.

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