UK-based phone giant Vodafone eyes deal with Kuwait’s Zain

Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co known as Zain

UK-based phone giant Vodafone is close to an agreement with Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co, also known as Zain, to expand access to Middle East networks, it was reported on Friday.

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According to two people familiar with the matter, the accord would cover countries including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain, Bloomberg reported.

It said the deal would let Vodafone, the world’s second-largest mobile-phone company, lower roaming fees and share handset-purchasing costs.

It added that an announcement on the deal may be made as early as next week. 

Zain has operations across the Middle East and North Africa, while Vodafone’s presence in the region is limited to majority stakes in carriers in Qatar and Egypt.

Vodafone last year signed accords with at least 10 Asian carriers to lower roaming rates and give subscribers better network coverage.

Kuwaiti telecom operator Zain reported a 1 percent rise in quarterly profit earlier this month, missing analysts’ estimates.

Zain said it made net profit of KD70.97m ($251.58m) in the three months to June 30. That compares to profit of KD70.26m in the prior-year period, the company said in a bourse statement.

Vodafone Qatar last month reported a narrower quarterly loss on Tuesday, thanks to an increase in subscribers and higher consumer spending.

Vodafone, which ended Qatar Telecom’s domestic monopoly in 2009, made a first quarter net loss of QR118.3m ($32.49m) in the three months to June 30.

That compares with a loss of QR122.3m in the year-earlier period. The operator’s financial year starts on April 1.

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