According to Bloomberg, Iraqi mobile operator Asiacell has received commitments from a number of sovereign-backed funds that are interested in participating in what has been described as ‘the Middle East’s largest initial public offering (IPO) since 2008’. According to Shwan Ibrahim Taha, chairman of Rabee Securities in Baghdad, the sole arranger of the IPO, institutional investors from the Persian Gulf, Europe and the US have all registered orders to date. ‘Some of these funds are sovereign backed’, he added, without naming any of the participants.
The cellco, a subsidiary of Qatar Telecom (Qtel), aims to sell 25% of its stock in the IPO and will list on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) from 3 February. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, under the terms of their operating licences, Iraq’s three national mobile operators were required to float their capital on the ISX within four years, as the bourse was not ready to handle the listings when the concessions were handed out in 2007. In March 2009 the government reiterated the operators’ obligation to list around 25% of their shares, in a move that could triple the value of shares on the stock market to over USD6 billion.