Wataniya Palestine delays listing until end of third quarter

01 July 2010

Mobile operator expected to offer 30 per cent stake

Wataniya Palestine’s initial public offering (IPO) on the Palestine Stock Exchange (PSE) has been delayed from early July to the end of the third quarter of this year.  

The mobile operator, which has a paid up capital of $817m, is planning to list a 30 per cent stake of the company as 170 million shares. It is currently in talks with its advisory team to determine the share price.

“The company is progressing with preparations for the listing, but they don’t think it’s the right moment,” says Ahmad Aweidah, chief executive of the PSE. “They’re now trying to decide whether to do it in late August or after Ramadan.”    

Ramadan is expected to begin on or around 11 August this year and will finish around 10 September.

“The markets tend to experience a lull from July to September, but this is also when most expatriate Palestinians return home for vacation, so it would get much better exposure to the diaspora community if it did launch in the summer.”

As the largest company scheduled to list this year, Wataniya Palestine is expected to play a key role in deepening the PSE.

Launched in November last year as the second mobile operator in the Palestinian territories, Wataniya has already signed up more than 160,000 customers.

“Telecoms is a very hot industry right now,” says Aweidah. “Palestine’s mobile penetration rate currently stands at just under 50 per cent so it has great potential and I think its listing will be oversubscribed in a major way.”

The country has an average mobile revenue per user (ARPU), a measure of how much each customer spends every month, of $20 a head. This is quite high relative to other regional markets such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, which have an ARPU of around $14 a head.

Wataniya is 47 per cent owned by the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and 53 per cent owned by Qatar Telecom (Qtel) – stakes that will drop to 30 and 40 per cent respectively after the IPO.

The exchange has already seen four companies list this year and there are currently five IPOs in the pipeline, including that of the PSE itself, which has a paid-up capital of $10m. It is planning to float 20-30 per cent to foreign institutional investors towards the end of the year.  

Today, the PSE has a market capitalisation of $2.4bn with 90 companies listed across five main economic sectors; banking, insurance, investments, industry and services.


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