April 12, 2009 / 7:19 AM / in 10 years

Kuwait's Zain eyes $5 bln for buys by 2011 - paper

* Wants to expand in Asia, Africa, Middle East-paper

* In talks to move into Syrian market

KUWAIT, April 12 (Reuters) - Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co (ZAIN.KW) plans to spend up to $5 billion on new acquisitions by 2011, its chief executive was quoted on Sunday as saying.

Zain wants to expand in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and is currently in talks to move into the Syrian market, Saad al-Barrak told Asharq Alawsat.

“We have earmarked until 2011 what we initially estimated at $5 billion for new acquisitions,” he told the paper.

Zain said last year it was interested in buying a controlling stake in Syria’s largest mobile phone provider, Syriatel Mobile Telecom.

“For Syria there are ongoing negotiations...and we will have a presence (there) in the near future,” Barrak said, without giving more details.

Zain, which operates in 24 countries, has been spending billions of dollars to expand abroad as competition heats up at home where VIVA, an affiliate of Saudi Telecom 7010.SE, has recently started operations.

Barrak reiterated the first and second quarters would be tough, given the global recession, but Zain still aims to hit its earlier target of a 30 percent rise in net profit in 2009.

The company was not immediately available to comment.

Earlier this month, Barrak was quoted as saying he expects first-quarter net profit to be close to its year-ago level of 73.3 million dinars. [ID:nL2233137]

In November, Barrak said Zain planned to make four to five acquisitions worth up to $4 billion before 2010. [ID:nL6289977] (Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Sam Cage)

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