Iraqi regulator to fine telecoms operators for not listing

02 August 2011

The Communications and Media Commission to fine operators if they miss IPO deadline

Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) has threatened to fine all three telecoms operators if they do not meet the end-August deadline to float 25 per cent shares on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX).

While both Qatar-owned Asiacell and France Telecom-owned Korek Telecom have made efforts to begin the process, Zain Iraq has made the most progress by tendering the financial advisory role, but has yet to choose an adviser (MEED 18:7:11).

The onset of Ramadan has contributed to slowing down the process with reduced working hours and less market activity.

The parliamentary higher committee for mobile has decreed that the shares be listed as soon as possible.

“It is doubtful for them to list in August, but it will have to be very soon, at least by this year,” says Kassim al-Hassani, director general of state-owned Iraqi Telecoms and Post Company (ITPC).

All three of the telecoms operators have expressed fears that the ISX will not be ready for such a large flotation at the same time.

“The market is not ready, there is low liquidity on the ISX and these are companies with large market capitalisation compared to other sectors,” says Kunal Bajaj, telecoms analyst at HSBC.

But ISX’s chief executive Taha Abdulsala Al-Rubaye hit back at these claims in June through a statement posted on the bourse’s website.

“The mobile operators have not taken the necessary steps to change their status from limited liability company to joint stock company. The ISX … is capable to handle large volume transactions.  There is also enough liquidity in Iraq and a good interest by international funds to make a listing of any size a success, the liquidity of the market today is only limited by the availability of companies on the exchange,” read the statement.

In 2007, the CMC issued the mobile licences for $1.25bn each.

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