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Kuwait’s KIPCO owns 60.5 pct of TV operator Mideast pay-TV firm OSN gets buyout offer

DUBAI, July 20, (RTRS): Middle Eastern pay-television operator OSN is the subject of a full takeover bid from an unnamed buyer, its parent company said on Sunday, a deal that could prove to be one of the largest acquisitions of a regional business in recent years. Kuwait Projects Company (KIPCO), which owns 60.5 percent of OSN, said in a bourse filing it would evaluate the bid alongside its partner and update the market if there were any developments. Saudi Arabia-based Mawarid Group owns the rest of OSN, according to the TV firm’s website.

No value for the bid was given in the statement. However, brokerage Arqaam Capital last year valued OSN at $4.3 billion. OSN, which has operations across the Middle East and North Africa and posted earnings of 139.5 million Kuwait dinars ($494 million) in 2013, was a candidate for an initial public offer of shares this year, although the company dampened those expectations in recent weeks. KIPCO said early this year that a flotation could happen on the London stock exchange in 2014, but OSN chief executive David Butorac told reporters in May that a share sale was not imminent. Butorac also said OSN’s shareholders were looking at future options for the business.

Should a sale be completed at around the kind of valuation which Arqaam put on the company, it will be one of the largest sales of a Middle Eastern business in recent years. OSN joins a number of Kuwaiti-linked companies that are said to have attracted interest from potential buyers this year, with consumer-focused businesses garnering the most attention because of the Gulf’s young population and growing wealth.
 
The majority shareholder of Kuwait Food Co (Americana) has hired investment bank Rothschild to explore selling the business, which has a market value of about $4.3 billion; private equity firms have been eyeing a deal. Meanwhile, a stake in Bahrain-listed Ahli United Bank could be sold or the bank merged with another lender in a deal worth up to $5 billion, sources told Reuters in April.  AUB’s shareholders include funds owned by the governments of Kuwait and Bahrain.

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