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Iraq’s Asiacell picks banks for IPO – sources | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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DUBAI, (Reuters) – Iraqi mobile telecoms firm Asiacell LLC, an affiliate of Qatar Telecom , has picked HSBC and Morgan Stanley to manage an initial public share offer next year, four sources familiar with the process said on Tuesday.

The company is currently converting from being a limited liability company to a shareholding corporation, the public offering isn’t expected until 2012, two of the sources said, due to volatile market conditions and the time needed to complete the pre-IPO process.

Qtel declined to comment.

While Asiacell and two other Iraqi telecom companies — Korek Telecom, part-owned by France Telecom and logistics firm Agility , and Zain Iraq, a unit of Kuwait’s Zain — were required to list 25 percent of their shares before August, the commissioner of Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission said last week it did not expect any offerings until mid-2012.

“All three operators are in dialogue with the regulator and they are trying to find a suitable roadmap which doesn’t overload the system,” one of the sources said.

“It is all about the fine balance between being late on the deadline and, even if they were ready, going public in an environment where they price at a reasonable rate.”

Last year’s listing of Nawras , Oman’s second mobile operator whose majority shareholder is also Qtel, encountered a similar situation.

The terms of its licence dictated that it needed to list 40 percent on the Muscat Securities Market by February 2010 but volatile equity markets saw the regulator grant it an extension and the IPO was completed in October 2010.

For the three Iraqi telcos, listing on their home exchange also presents challenges.

There has never been an IPO on the Iraqi bourse which is structured like a Western offering, with a roadshow and then a period of bookbuilding before final pricing.

The format of Asiacell’s IPO has yet to be decided but one of the sources said discussions were taking place around whether to use the book-build method.

A fixed price offering would be the other option for Asiacell, which is easier for investors to understand but doesn’t reflect the true value of the shares; with shares liable to big jumps on the first day of trading as the market corrects.

The size of the three listings are also set to be much larger than any other stock on the Iraqi bourse.

The combined freefloats would be worth around $5 billion but the current daily turnover on the Iraqi exchange was around $1.5 million, Ghada Gebara, the chief executive of Korek Telecom, told Reuters last week.

Therefore, ensuring a smooth listing process will be important for both the future performance of the stocks and the credibility of the wider exchange.

“You can’t have listings from the same sector and the same country on top of each other as it damages investor demand so it would be better if the regulator gave all of 2012 to get the three deals done,” the first source said.

“But the regulator seems to understand what a proper process should be, with their recent comments about timing sensible and without the sabre-rattling of having to get it done by a certain date.”

Zain Iraq said last month it has also begun the process of changing to a shareholding company.

It has appointed BNP Paribas , Citigroup and National Bank of Kuwait to run its offering, three of the sources said.

Meanwhile, Korek Telecom has yet to invite banks to pitch for its IPO, the sources said.