Late surge buoys telecom IPO

10 January 2003
Some 900,000 Saudi citizens - more than 5 per cent of the total national population - applied to subscribe to Saudi Telecomstock, acting Posts, Telegraphs & Telephones (PTT) Minister Khaled al-Gosaibi announced on 7 January, the day after the company closed the initial public offering (IPO) of 20 per cent of its shares. Applications were reportedly moving very slowly until the final two days of the offer (MEED 20:12:02).

'At the close of the IPO, the value of requests filed by citizens was SR 36,000 million [$9,600 million],' said Finance & National Economy Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf on 7 January. 'The process was a huge success.' More than 10 investors are believed to have each applied for stock worth SR 1,000 million ($267 million) in the final days of the issue.

Analysts say the government will be very satisfied with the result of the IPO, especially as there were fears that the poor global economic outlook and the threat of war in the region would deter applicants.

The 60 million shares on offer in the IPO are expected to be allocated to applicants in mid January and will be open to trading in mid February. Every applicant is guaranteed 10 shares, which were offered for SR 170 ($45.3) each. A further 30 million shares have been transferred by the government to the General Organisation for Social Insurance (GOSI) and the state Pension Fund. It is understood that these shares were held in reserve by the government in case the total number of applicants exceeded 6 million, in which case 10 shares could not have been guaranteed to each subscriber.

According to analysts, the late rush for shares is typical of the Saudi market. 'This subscription was literally covered in the last day and a half,' says Mazen Hassouneh, head of Riyadh-based Rana Investments Company. 'It's in the nature of the market here that the big buyers come in once they've seen how the subscription is evolving and can gauge how big their allocation will be.'

The market had hoped for a larger number of subscribers. 'At one stage we were talking about 1.5 million applicants, which would have been much better for market liquidity,' says Hassouneh. 'Those who hold lots of stock tend to hang onto it for the dividends and capital appreciation.'

The 30 million shares now held by GOSI and the Pension Fund are similarly unlikely to move to the market soon, or even at all.

The government says it will use the revenue generated by the sale to relieve some of its public debt, which now stands at nearly 100 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The IPO will raise around $2,700 million and the price of the shares taken by GOSI and the Pensions Fund has not been revealed.

The adviser for the sale is Bahrain-based Gulf International Bank.

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