Palestinian telecoms operator Wataniya Mobile began its first day of trading on the Palestine Exchange on 9 January 2011. It completes the company’s initial public offering (IPO), which raised $50.3m, the largest share sale on the exchange for 10 years.

The company floated 15 per cent of its shares priced at $1.30. The market capitalisation of Wataniya Mobile is $355.4m.

“Today is a momentous day for the Palestinian capital markets. The successful completion of the Wantiya IPO demonstrates the enthusiasm from both the international investment community and the Palestinian people,” says Mohammad Mustafa, chairman of Wataniya Mobile.

According to adviser HSBC, the IPO attracted strong demand from local retail investors, alongside international institutional investors from Europe and the Middle East.

“The strong international demand for the Wataniya IPO, which converted despite it being an extreme frontier market indicates that there should be investor appetite for other IPOs in the Middle East,” says Michael Bevan, HSBC’s director of Middle East and North Africa equity capital markets.

Wataniya Mobile was launched in November 2009 to rival state incumbent Palestinian Telecom (Paltel). It is majority-owned by Qatar Telecom, which recently completed its $1.2bn acquisition of Tunisiana via its Wataniya brand.

There are currently 2.5 million mobile subscribers in Palestine, with a penetration rate of 57 per cent at the end of September 2010. Plans to introduce a third operator remain on hold until the Israeli government grants the Palestinian Telecommunications & IT Ministry the required frequencies.