Zain Saudi To Defer Paying $1.49bn In Licence Fees

The rescheduled payment, spread over seven years, will be treated as a commercial loan.

Indebted telecoms operator Zain Saudi has received government approval to defer licence fee payments totalling $1.49 billion over seven years, sending its shares on Monday to an eight-month high.

The rescheduled payment will be treated as a commercial loan, with the first payment due in 2021, the company said.

Shares in Zain Saudi, which also has $3 billion of loans maturing this month, were up 9.7 per cent at SAR9.65 at 0945 GMT, reaching their highest level since October 2012.

The firm, which had a 15 per cent share of Saudi’s mobile subscribers as of the end of 2012, reached an agreement with Saudi’s Ministry of Finance to reschedule its annual licence fee of SAR800 million ($213.3 million) for the coming seven years, the company said in a bourse statement late on Sunday.

The firm, 37 per cent owned by Kuwait’s Zain, has yet to make a quarterly net profit since launching operations in 2008.

Zain Saudi agreed to pay $6.1 billion for Saudi Arabia’s third mobile network licence, valid for 25 years but has struggled to compete with Saudi Telecom Co (STC) and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily).