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Asiacell wins initial approval to list on Iraqi bourse

The ISX, which started operating in 2004, is one of the few examples of attempts to broaden the centralised economy and entice foreign investors. Picture taken July 2, 2012. To match story IRAQ-ECONOMY/ISX REUTERS/Saad Shalash

BAGHDAD: Mobile phone operator Asiacell has reached an initial agreement to list on the Iraqi bourse, the chief executive of the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) said on Thursday, making it the first mobile operator to do so.

"Asiacell made a request to be listed on the Iraqi bourse and the Iraq Securities Commission has agreed initially to the request," Taha Abdulsalam told Reuters.

The Iraq Securities Commission (ISC) is the ISX regulator.

Iraq did not have a mobile phone market under Saddam Hussein and the sector has boomed since his fall from power in 2003, offering double-digit subscriber growth. It is the fastest growing industry in the war-battered country after oil.

Listings for mobile phone companies could boost foreign interest in the stock exchange, which is dominated by banks.

Asiacell, a unit of Qatar Telecommunications, and its two rivals in the market, Zain Iraq and Korek, have to make initial public offerings as a condition of their $1.25 billion operating licenses.

All three companies missed the deadline of August 2011.

Iraq's communications regulator in June decided to fine Asiacell $8,500 per day beginning on September 1, 2011 for its failure to list. Zain Iraq and Korek have also been paying fines from the same date.

Asiacell said in a statement that it was working through the final paperwork necessary to complete the listing.

Iraq's bourse is still tiny in comparison with other regional or international stock markets with a market capitalisation of around $3.6 billion. That could jump once the mobile operators are listed.

 

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