Zain Iraq plans IPO in the first-half



Baghdad: Zain Iraq plans to sell shares by June as the country's largest mobile-phone operator follows a $1.3 billion initial public offering by the Iraqi unit of Qatar Telecom.

Zain Iraq, a unit of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications, will list 25 per cent of its shares on the Iraq Stock Exchange in the first half, Chief Financial Officer Wael Ghanayem said in an interview in Baghdad. "There will be a big demand for our shares and it will be very attractive."

The share sale plan follows Asiacell Communications, majority owned by Qatar Telecom, which started trading in Baghdad this month after the largest IPO in the Middle East since 2008. Zain Iraq has hired Citigroup, National Bank of Kuwait, BNP Paribas as advisers for the offering, said Ghanayem, who is also the company's chief operating officer.

Asiacell's share sale was fully subscribed and doubled the market value of the country's stock exchange from $4.66 billion last year, according to Taha Ahmed Abdul-Salam al-Rubaye, the bourse chief executive officer. Korek Telecom, part-owned by France Telecom, must also sell 25 per cent of its shares on the bourse to comply with it license requirement.

Zain Iraq is in the final stages to convert into a shareholding company, Ghanayem said. The company's profit climbed six per cent last year to $369 million and it expects "double-digit" growth this year, he said.

Client base
The stock exchanged opened in 2004 after suspending operations during the invasion, and prices were updated manually on a white board before electronic trading was introduced in 2009. Banks have the largest market value among 73 listed companies, according to the latest data from the bourse.

The telecommunications industry in Iraq will continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace, after registering a rate of 12 per cent last year compared with 17 per cent in 2009, Ghanayem said.

The mobile-phone penetration rate in Iraq is at about 80 per cent compared with neighbouring countries where it ranges between 90 per cent and 130 per cent, he said.
Zain Iraq has a 50 per cent market share after subscribers grew 10 per cent to 13.7 million at the end of last year, Ghanayem said. The company plans to invest 15 per cent of its 2013 revenue on expanding and modernising its network, he said.

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