Wires

Saudi Telecom's Kuwait affiliate Viva seeks $400 mln loan - sources

By Dinesh Nair and David French

DUBAI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Kuwaiti telecoms operator Viva,part-owned by Saudi Telecom Co (STC), has approachedbanks for a $400 million loan aimed at expanding its existingcapabilities, two banking sources familiar with the matter said.

Viva, which launched services in 2008 and is also known asKuwait Telecom Company, is yet to mandate any banks for thesyndicated loan facility but has approached several lenders togauge interest, one banking source said, speaking on conditionof anonymity.

"They (Viva) have shown considerable progress sinceinception which is admirable for a regional telecoms player.Banks who commit the maximum balance sheet are most likely to becalled in," the source said.

"The loan will be used to boost network capabilities,roll-out new products and boost its current services."

Viva did not respond to calls or email seeking comment. Thesources did not want to be named as the matter has not been madepublic.

Viva is Kuwait's third mobile operator, behind larger rivalsZain and Qatar Telecom unit Wataniya. STC owns 26-percent in Viva while Kuwait's governmentowns a near 24-percent stake through its sovereign wealth fund.

It completed an initial public offering in 2008, raising 25million dinars ($89.00 million), but has yet to list its shareson the Kuwait bourse. Viva filed a listing application with themarket regulator in February but declined to say when its shareswould start trading.

The telecom operator had built up a 20-percent share ofKuwait's mobile subscribers by 2011-end, lagging Zain andWataniya which had 41 and 39 percent respectively, according toZain's annual report.

The operator had accumulated losses of 68.5 million dinarsat 2011-end, according to its annual report, exceeding 75percent of its capital.

This could force the company to cut its capital offset someof these losses and then issue new shares to recapitalise thecompany, according to analysts.($1 = 0.2809 Kuwaiti dinars)

(Additional reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Amran Abocar)

((dinesh.nair@thomsonreuters.com)(+ 971 4 366 4265)(ReutersMessaging: dinesh.nair.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: KUWAIT VIVA/LOAN