The End of Zain, and a step back for Kuwait

1134-BZ08FE_WinnerSpread_Zain-thumb-550x366.jpg

, the Indian mobile operator, has put out a statement

for Zain's African networks that has been reported in the Kuwaiti media.

This is short term good news for Zain shareholders looking to cash in. But it is no doubt bad news for the company's aspirations as a significant global operator - Zain is now a relatively OK looking regional player, and a prime target for a buyout by someone looking to get into Saudi Arabia. This is no longer a significant international company.

It is also, in my view, bad news for Kuwait. Not only is the country's largest public company being pulled apart and sold off in pieces, but its best known international brand, and one of its only globally competitive private companies, is clearly on a downward trajectory. All, it seems, because local shareholders did not want to stick it out for the long term.

I was planning on writing a whole article on this topic, but

It also goes without saying that this has not been the Kuwait stock market's finest hour. Since the middle of last year, every single step in the sorry process has been strategically leaked to the local media, often days before the company made the same disclosure to the market.

From selling out of Africa to a dodgy-looking buyout to the loss of a CEO to a less dodgy-looking buyout, there has never been a point in this process where Zain spoke to the market before someone close the the top of the company leaked to the press. This has led to speculative, rumour-based trading on the market.

That happens anywhere, sometimes, but to be a consistent pattern throughout a drawn out period of uncertainty is bad news, and in a regulated market, would warrant investigation.

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