According to a report by Bloomberg, an ongoing legal dispute over the ownership of Zain Nigeria between the Kuwaiti group and Econet Wireless Holdings could delay the sale of Zain’s African operations to Indian firm Bharti Airtel. Econet, which owns a 5% stake in Zain Nigeria, claims that its right of first refusal over the ownership of the cellco was breached in May 2006, when its Nigerian partners sold their shares to Zain, and, as reported by CommsUpdate in October 2009, recently applied for interim measures to prevent Zain from selling, transferring, disposing of, dealing with or otherwise encumbering the disputed stake until the matter is resolved. As reported by CommsUpdate on 15 February 2010, Bharti Airtel entered a period of exclusive negotiations, lasting until 25 March 2010, with Zain over its African operations. It remains to be seen whether delays to the sale of Zain Nigeria, Zain’s largest African subsidiary with an estimated 15.22 million customers at year-end 2009, will threaten the timely conclusion of a deal between Bharti and Zain.
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