Zain Iraq plans Baghdad listing by early 2013
Baghdad, October 3, 2012
Iraqi mobile phone company Zain Iraq plans to go ahead with a long-delayed stock market listing in Baghdad by early 2013 at the latest, its chief operating officer said on Tuesday.
Zain Iraq, owned by Kuwaiti telecom group Zain, still needs to convert to a joint stock company in preparation for the float, Hisham Akbar, Zain deputy chief executive and chief operating officer, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai.
"We are hoping for the last quarter of this year (to IPO), but the joint (stock) company got delayed," Akbar said.
Zain Iraq and rival operators Asiacell - a unit of Qatar Telecom (Qtel) - and France Telecom affiliate Korek have to sell a quarter of their shares to investors via an initial public offereing to meet conditions for their mobile phone licences in Iraq. But all have missed a deadline of August 2011 for the IPOs and been fined for doing so.
Iraq did not have a mobile phone market under Saddam Hussein and the sector has boomed since his fall from power in 2003. It has become the country's fastest growing industry after oil.
The requirement for the phone companies to list on the Iraqi stock market are part of efforts to create a more diversified economy and move away from state-run companies.
But preparations for the listings have proved chaotic and there has been uncertainty over whether the share sales would be open to foreign investors or if dual listings were possible.
Also the Iraq Stock Exchange, which has a combined market capitalisation of about $3.4 billion and trades around $3 million daily, is small relative to the size of the phone companies.
In 2011, Nomura gave Zain Iraq an enterprise value (equity plus debt) of $4.9 billion and Asiacell $4.4 billion.
Zain Iraq was fined $12,864 per day for missing the IPO deadline. Akbar expects an appeal against this penalty to be heard by year-end.
"The total (fine) we envisioned as a worst case scenario if we list (in the) first-quarter (of 2013) is around $4 million," he said.
When asked whether Zain Iraq would opt for a single listing on the Iraq bourse, Akbar said: "most probably yes", adding Zain has also considered listings in Jordan and London.
"The chances were stronger (of a dual or secondary listing) nine months ago."
Zain's shareholding in Zain Iraq would fall to 51 percent from 76 percent should the IPO be fully subscribed, Akbar said.
Asiacell will probably be the first operator to float. In August, it received preliminary approval from Iraqi regulators and has placed advertisements in Iraqi newspapers to publicise the flotation.-Reuters