BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Iraq’s three main mobile phone companies have appealed against a communications regulator decision to fine them for failing to list on the local stock exchange, the phone operators and a senior official at the watchdog said on Wednesday.
Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) decided to fine Zain, Asiacell and Korek for missing an August 2011 deadline to list on the local bourse as a condition of their $1.25 billion operating licenses.
The CMC on July 5 fined the Iraq unit of Kuwait telecoms firm Zain, Iraq’s No.1 mobile operator, $12,864 a day day starting from Sept. 1, 2011.
This followed fines in June for Asiacell, majority-owned by Qatar Telecom, of $8,500 a day and for Korek, in which France Telecom and Kuwait’s Agility have stakes, of $2,500 a day. Both penalties were also backdated.
Ahmed Alomary, a CMC commissioner, said Asiacell and Korek had both paid the fine but also appealed the decision to an appeal body affiliated with the Iraqi Judiciary council.
Zain, which has an estimated 53 percent market share in Iraq, has not yet paid the fine because its Iraqi bank accounts have been frozen because of a previous unpaid fine for putting 5 million sim cards into the market without permission.
It has also appealed the fine related to the bourse listing, Alomary said.
“We should not be penalised as this delay was beyond our control due to some governmental bureaucratic procedures and other matters,” Zain said in a statement, adding it had asked for the fine to be cancelled.
The company said that paying the daily sum would bring the total annual penalty close to $4.67 million.
Asiacell said it had paid the fine, the equivalent of 3,350 million Iraqi Dinar ($2.88 million) annually.
Korek was not immediately available for comment.
Asiacell is the only one of the three companies to have so far sought and recieved initial approval to list from the bourse regulator, the chief executive of the Iraq Stock Exchange said in early August.
Alomary expects Asiacell shares to be traded in early 2013.
Iraq did not have a mobile phone market under Saddam Hussein and the sector has blossomed since his fall from power in 2003 to become the country’s fastest growing industry in the country after oil.