Qatar Telecom (Qtel) is considering plans to increase its stake in Iraqi mobile operator Asiacell. The telecoms group currently has a 30 per cent holding in the company, but is looking to boost its share to 51 per cent.

Qtel is in talks with a group of shareholders, including the UK’s Merchant Bridge to purchase their stake ahead of the initial public offering (IPO) set to take place in February 2012. Merchant Bridge is the majority shareholder with a 40 per cent stake in Asiacell.

Asiacell, founded by Iraq-based Faruk Group Holding, is in the process of becoming a publically listed company on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX). Last week MEED revealed that the 25 per cent stake Asiacell will be floating has been valued at $1bn. This would value the company at $4bn in total.

The current capital of Asiacell Telecom Joint Stock Company is $230m.

By the end of September of 2011, Asiacell’s subscriber base grew by 9.9 per cent to 8.7 million when compared with the same period last year.  Its revenues grew 17.3 per cent in the first nine months of the year to $1.18bn.

Asiacell refused to comment on shareholder matters.

“Qtel does not comment on market rumours or speculation,” said a spokesman for Qtel in an emailed statement.

Merchant Bridge did not respond at the time of going to press.

Iraq’s mobile market is one of the few in the region with room for growth. Average revenue per user (ARPU) is $15.11 and internet penetration is expected to increase to 94 per cent by 2015.