Zain Saudi Arabia expected to ask for more time on $2.4bn refinancing

09 January 2013

Banks losing patience as Saudi telecoms firm set to ask for another delay on debt deal

Telecoms firm Zain Saudi Arabia (Zain KSA) is expected to have to ask lenders for a seventh extension on a $2.6bn loan that the firm has been trying to refinance for about a year.

The loan currently matures on 30 January after banks agreed in December to give the firm an extension on the debt, while it finalises terms on a new $2.4bn facility being put in place by the local Banque Saudi Fransi, Al-Rajhi Bank, and the UK’s Standard Chartered.

The continued delay in getting the new financing in place has already led to one bank dropping out of the syndicate that was put in place in mid-2012. South Africa’s Standard Bank had agreed to be part of the new lending group, but changed its mind in late 2012. Sources close to the deal say that another bank in the deal has agreed to increase its commitment to make up for Standard Bank dropping out.

The current bank group is understood to be largely banks from Saudi Arabia, with some international banks and some Kuwaiti lenders, who have joined the deal because of links to Zain Group, the Kuwaiti firm which holds a major stake in Zain KSA.

“Obviously, banks are getting impatient as it has been a long time now with little progress,” says one banker close to the deal.

“There are no real problems facing the deal now, but it seems the company wants to keep trying to negotiate terms,” says another lender. He adds that with the bank group not yet having a term sheet for the new loan, another extension on the existing deal is likely.

Zain KSA’s existing $2.4bn of debt had been due to mature in July 2011, but lenders agreed to extend that loan while the local Kingdom Holding and Bahrain’s Batelco considered acquiring the Saudi mobile operator. Once that takeover collapsed, Zain KSA launched a recapitalisation plan that included a $1.6bn and the loan refinancing.

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