Iraqi mobile operators miss August IPO deadline

29 August 2011

Industry regulator to fine all three telecoms firms

All three of Iraq’s mobile operators have missed their initial public offering (IPO) deadline as August comes to an end and the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) closes for Eid holidays.

As part of their $1.25bn licence agreements, the operators Kuwait’s Zain subsidiary, Qatar Telecom’s Asiacell and Korek Telecom, which is part owned by France Telecom, had until the end of August this year to float 25 per cent of their shares on the ISX.

All three were supposedly working on the preparations, but concerns were raised on the feasibility of a simultaneous flotation and whether the market would be able to handle three heavyweight listings in the same month. The market capitalisation of the ISX is about $4bn, whereas the combined value of the three operators is about $15bn.

“We will be fining the operators as they have missed the deadline, but we do want to help them in any way we can. We held workshops on 18 July to study IPOs and we are offering the operators consultants to study the market and decide the best way to float the shares,” says Ahmed Alomary, commissioner at the Communications and Media Commission.

Zain announced in June that it would be ready to float 20 per cent of its shares by the end of August to raise $80m. It issued an advisory tender, which attracted 13 bids from international and local institutions including the UK’s HSBC, Egypt’s EFG-Hermes and US’ JP Morgan. The company has not yet announced which adviser it has chosen.

“Implementing licence requirements regarding the IPO is ongoing. We are having regular meetings with the CMC to help expedite the process,” says Emad Makiya, chief executive officer of Zain Iraq.

The operators have had four years to prepare for the IPO, and according to a source at the Ministry of Communications, they will have to list their shares soon, before the end of the year.

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