Asiacell Boosts Iraq Bourse Growth After $1.3 Billion IPO

Asiacell Communications PJSC’s share listing in Baghdad today, after the largest initial public offering in the Middle East since 2008, will help lure liquidity and foreign investment to the bourse, the Iraq Stock Exchange chief said.

“The success of the Asiacell shares selling today proved that there is Iraqi and non-Iraqi liquid money willing to be invested in the Iraq Stock Exchange and in Asiacell shares,” Taha Ahmed Abdul-Salam al-Rubaye told reporters in Baghdad today. Trading on the telecommunications company’s shares starts tomorrow, he said.

The IPO, which closed Feb. 2, was fully subscribed, as Asiacell sold all 67.5 billion shares, or 25 percent of its share capital, at a minimum of 22 dinars each, he said. Foreign investors bought 70 percent of the offering and Iraqis the remainder, Rabee Securities, the sole organizer of the IPO, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Asiacell, majority-owned by Qatar Telecom QSC, raised 1.49 trillion dinars ($1.3 billion), the most for an IPO in the Middle East and North Africa since Saudi Arabian Mining Co.’s share sale more than four years ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Asiacell’s public offering will help double the market value of the Iraq Stock Exchange from $4.66 billion last year, al-Rubaye said last month.

Required Sales

“This is an invitation to all the other telecom companies to turn into shareholding companies,” as required by their contract terms before listing on the bourse, al-Rubaye said today.

Like Asiacell, Iraq’s two other main mobile-phone operators -- Zain Iraq, a unit of Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co., and Korek Telecom, part-owned by France Telecom SA -- must sell 25 percent of their shares on the stock exchange to comply with their licenses.

Sulaymaniyah-based Asiacell obtained a 15-year mobile telecommunications license in 2007 and had 43 percent market share by revenue at the end of September, with 9.9 million individual and corporate subscribers.

The value of Asiacell shares, the only telecommunications company on the Baghdad bourse, is 49.9 percent of the exchange’s total market capitalization, according to the Rabee statement. The banking sector has a share of 41.4 percent, hotels and tourism 3.3 percent, the industry sector 3.2 percent, services 1.5 percent, agriculture 0.6 percent, insurance 0.1 percent and the investment sector 0.1 percent, according to the statement.

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