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Kuwait’s Zain says sued for $4.5b over Iraq telco buy

Dubai: Zain is being sued for $4.5 billion over its 2007 acquisition of an Iraqi telecom operator, the Kuwaiti firm said in a bourse statement on Sunday.

Zain bought Iraqna for $1.2 billion from Orascom Telecom in December 2007 after the Egyptian firm dropped out of the running for a long-term mobile licence in Iraq.

The Kuwaiti firm then merged its Iraqi unit, Atheer, with Iraqna and renamed the entity Zain Iraq, which today is the country’s biggest operator by subscribers.

Zain said in statement on Sunday that a company it declined to identify filed a lawsuit last August. This claims Zain’s takeover had stopped the firm buying Iraqna, causing it losses of $4.5 billion.

“Zain Iraq believes its position in the case is strong as the claimant company has failed until now to produce any evidence to back its claim,” Zain said in the statement, adding it has now revealed some details of the court case after seeking legal advice.

The anonymous company is also suing Zain and Iraq’s telecom regulator, the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), jointly for a further $1 billion, the statement said.

An Iraqi court in January ruled that all Zain Iraq’s revenue from its subscriber base transferred to the company as a result of the Iraqna acquisition should be placed under a legal guardian and in an Iraqi bank until the case is resolved, the statement said, adding the Kuwaiti company unsuccessfully appealed this decision.

Iraqna had about 3 million subscribers at the time of Zain’s acquisition and the statement did not explain whether the money to be placed under the legal guardian’s jurisdiction would be back-dated to 2007 or how such a sum could be calculated.

Zain Iraq had 15.9 million customers as of 2013-end, generating an annual profit of $360.9 million.