Iraqi mobile operator Asiacell has launched an initial public offering (IPO) to establish it as a joint stock company.

The current capital of Asiacell is ID270bn ($230m), but it is floating just 10 million of its shares for ID1 each, worth in total $8,500.

The subscription period began 14 September and shares are available through Al-Shamal Finance and Investment Bank. The deadline for subscription is 13 November.

In a letter sent to the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX), Asiacell chairman Raouk Mustafa Rasool outlines this as a step to change the operator from a limited liability company to a joint stock company “as a step to offer a share of the company to the public”.

It is much smaller than the required 25 per cent of shares that have to be sold as part of the licence agreement. The end-August 2011 deadline was not met by any of the three mobile operators in the country, but this is a first step in the process.

“This is not really an IPO; it is just a move to get itself ready for the real IPO. Asiacell maybe doing it to cement its existing shareholders’ shares,” says Hal Miran, managing director of Iraq-based brokerage firm Rabee Securities.

The other operators have yet to make a similar move.