Asiacell shares sold on Iraq bourse in major float

  • Associated Press
  • February 3, 2013 - 4:22 AM

BAGHDAD - Iraqi mobile phone service provider Asiacell on Sunday sold 25 percent of its shares on the Iraq Stock Exchange, the head of the bourse said, calling it the biggest initial public offering in the Middle East since 2008.

Asiacell had offered a quarter of its shares, or 67.5 billion, as part of licensing requirements. The company raised $1.3 billion, with the initial share price set at 22 Iraqi dinars, or just under 2 cents, apiece, said Taha al-Rubaye, the head of the exchange.

The flotation is to double the market capitalization of the ISX to about $9 billion, up from $4.7 billion before the sale. Public trading of the Asiacell stock is to begin Monday, al-Rubaye said.

Al-Rubaye said it's the first major stock float on the ISX, which was set up in 2004, a year after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Al-Rubaye said he believes it's also the largest IPO in the Middle East in nearly five years.

A successful floatation on Baghdad's low-volume stock exchange could reassure international investors, many of whom remain wary of the risky Iraqi market, overshadowed by continued sectarian violence and political deadlock.

On Sunday, an attacker drove a car packed with explosives into the regional police headquarters in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing at least 15 people and wounding 70.

Asiacell is one of three major Iraqi telecom companies, along with Zain Iraq, part of Kuwait's Zain, and Korek, an affiliate of France Telecom. The Gulf state of Qatar's government-backed Qatar Telecom has a majority stake in Asiacell.

The three companies are required to list shares on the stock exchange as a condition of their 15-year operating licenses, which cost $1.25 billion when they were acquired in 2007. All three missed a deadline in August 2011 to offer shares to the public.

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