Qatar Telecom now owns 64.1% of Asiacell

Updated 05 February 2013
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Qatar Telecom now owns 64.1% of Asiacell

DUBAI: Qatar Telecom used Iraqi unit Asiacell’s $ 1.27 billion share sale, Iraq’s largest ever flotation, to raise its stake to 64 percent in a vote of confidence in a country recovering from years of war and economic sanctions.
As the first big equity sale since a US-led invasion of 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein, the listing of Iraq’s No. 2 telecom operator was seen as a test of investor appetite, with other local telecoms firms also required to float as a condition of their operating licenses.
The initial verdict seems positive. Asiacell shareholders, led by managing director Faruq Mustafa Rasool, sold 67.5 billion shares in the offer, a quarter of its share capital, at 22 dinars apiece and it was fully subscribed by Sunday’s close.
A day later, Asiacell shares ended 5.7 percent higher at 23.25 dinars on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX).
Some 70 percent of the public offer went to foreign investors, including Qatar Telecom (Qtel).
Iraq did not have a mobile phone market under Saddam Hussein and the sector has blossomed since his fall to become the country’s fastest growing industry after oil.
With the economy forecast to grow 10 percent a year over the next three years, the potential for mobile phone operators is great, although there are also security and logistical problems.
Qtel said it had raised its stake in Asiacell to 64.1 percent — from 53.9 percent previously — implying it may have accounted for more than a third of the shares sold in the public offer.
Qtel agreed in June to pay $ 1.5 billion to double its holding in Asiacell to 60 percent as part of a broader strategy to tighten its control over its foreign units, which span the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Part of that deal — a 6.1 percent stake — was subject to regulatory approval, which Qtel has now received, it said.
That means ahead of Asiacell’s bourse debut, Iraqi holdings in Asiacell fell to 28.6 percent from 46.1 percent, according to Reuters calculations. Yet a key aim of Asiacell’s flotation was to return some of the country’s wealth to its people.
“The stock is unlikely to be very liquid considering that a large part of the share sale was bought by foreign direct investors who are likely to keep the shares for a long time,” said Hassan Aldahan, chairman of Baghdad-based investment company Bain Alnahrain.
About 32.9 million Asiacell shares changed hands on the ISX on Monday. This trading was worth 759.17 million dinars ($ 651,600), with the bourse’s total turnover $ 4.02 million. That compares with a January daily bourse average of $ 4.59 million.
Asiacell’s offer valued the company at about $ 4.95 billion and its listing roughly doubles the bourse’s market value.
“This marks the birth of the ISX as a real stock market,” said Bartle Bull, portfolio manager of Northern Gulf Partners’ Iraq equity fund in New York. “Iraq has a far more open, dynamic business culture than many Gulf countries. The Iraqis are smarter and tougher. We should see some more companies coming.”
Asiacell’s bigger domestic rival Zain Iraq, a subsidiary of Kuwait’s Zain, as well as France Telecom affiliate Korek, are also required to offer a quarter of their shares under the terms of their operating licenses, having missed an initial August 2011 deadline to do so.
“The big cell phone companies are the bellwether stocks in any market, they’re so well correlated to the overall GDP story,” said Bull, who invested about 10-20 percent of his fund’s money in the Asiacell offering.
He expects Zain’s share offer to be launched by mid year.
While Asiacell had first mover advantage in tapping local Iraqi liquidity, Sebastien Henin, portfolio manager at The National Investor in Abu Dhabi, said the operator’s flotation would aid its domestic rivals’ listings.
“Iraq is a market that is largely unknown, with only a few fund managers investing in it and Asiacell has highlighted the market dynamics,” added Henin.
“Now, more investors will follow Iraq and there will be more liquidity for the next IPOs in the telecom sector. Plus, there’s a global shift from fixed income to equities and a lot of this is moving into emerging and frontier markets.”


Gulf of Oman tanker attacks jolt oil-import dependent Asia

Updated 15 June 2019
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Gulf of Oman tanker attacks jolt oil-import dependent Asia

  • Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz have alarmed Japan, China and South Korea
  • Japan’s conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was in Tehran when the attack happened

SEOUL: The blasts detonated far from the bustling megacities of Asia, but the attack this week on two tankers in the strategic Strait of Hormuz hits at the heart of the region’s oil import-dependent economies.

While the violence only directly jolted two countries in the region — one of the targeted ships was operated by a Tokyo-based company, a nearby South Korean-operated vessel helped rescue sailors — it will unnerve major economies throughout Asia.

Officials, analysts and media commentators on Friday hammered home the importance of the Strait of Hormuz for Asia, calling it a crucial lifeline, and there was deep interest in more details about the still-sketchy attack and what the US and Iran would do in the aftermath.

In the end, whether Asia shrugs it off, as some analysts predict, or its economies shudder as a result, the attack highlights the widespread worries over an extreme reliance on a single strip of water for the oil that fuels much of the region’s shared progress.

Here is a look at how Asia is handling rising tensions in a faraway but economically crucial area, compiled by AP reporters from around the world:

WHY ASIA WORRIES

The oil, of course.

Japan, South Korea and China don’t have enough of it; the Middle East does, and much of it flows through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which is the passage between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

This could make Asia vulnerable to supply disruptions from US-Iran tensions or violence in the strait.

The attack comes months after Iran threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz to retaliate against US economic sanctions, which tightened in April when  the Trump administration decided to end sanctions exemptions for the five biggest importers of Iranian oil, which included China and US allies South Korea and Japan.

Japan is the world’s fourth-largest consumer of oil — after the US, China and India — and relies on the Middle East for 80 per cent of its crude oil supply. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster led to a dramatic reduction in Japanese nuclear power generation and increased imports of natural gas, crude oil, fuel oil and coal.

In an effort to comply with Washington, Japan says it no longer imports oil from Iran. Officials also say Japanese oil companies are abiding by the embargo because they don’t want to be sanctioned. But Japan still gets oil from other Middle East nations using the Strait of Hormuz for transport.

South Korea, the world’s fifth largest importer of crude oil, also depends on the Middle East for the vast majority of its supplies.

Last month, South Korea halted its Iranian oil imports as its waivers from US sanctions on Teheran expired, and it has reportedly tried to increase oil imports from other countries.

China, the world’s largest importer of Iranian oil, “understands its growth model is vulnerable to a lack of energy sovereignty,” according to market analyst Kyle Rodda of IG, an online trading provider, and has been working over the last several years to diversify its suppliers. That includes looking to Southeast Asia and, increasingly, some oil-producing nations in Africa.

THE GEOGRAPHY AND THE POLITICS

Asia and the Middle East are linked by a flow of oil, much of it coming by sea and dependent on the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran threatened to close the strait in April. It also appears poised to break a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord that US President Donald Trump withdrew from last year. Under the deal saw Tehran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions.

For both Japan and South Korea, there is extreme political unease to go along with the economic worries stirred by the violence in the strait.

Both nations want to nurture their relationship with Washington, a major trading partner and military protector. But they also need to keep their economies humming, which requires an easing of tension between Washington and Tehran.

Japan’s conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was in Tehran, looking to do just that when the attack happened.

His limitations in settling the simmering animosity, however, were highlighted by both the timing of the attack and a comment by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who told Abe that he had nothing to say to Trump.

In Japan, the world’s third largest economy, the tanker attack was front-page news.

The Nikkei newspaper, Japan’s major business daily, said that if mines are planted in the Strait of Hormuz, “oil trade will be paralyzed.” The Tokyo Shimbun newspaper called the Strait of Hormuz Japan’s “lifeline.”

Although the Japanese economy and industry minister has said there will be no immediate effect on stable energy supplies, the Tokyo Shimbun noted “a possibility that Japanese people’s lives will be affected.”

South Korea, worried about Middle East instability, has worked to diversify its crude sources since the energy crises of the 1970s and 1980s.

THE FUTURE

Analysts said it’s highly unlikely that Iran would follow through on its threat to close the strait. That’s because a closure could also disrupt Iran’s exports to China, which has been working with Russia to build pipelines and other infrastructure that would transport oil and gas into China.

For Japan, the attack in the Strait of Hormuz does not represent an imminent threat to Tokyo’s oil supply, said Paul Sheldon, chief geopolitical adviser at S&P Global Platts Analytics.

“Our sense is that it’s not a crisis yet,” he said of the tensions.

Seoul, meanwhile, will likely be able to withstand a modest jump in oil prices unless there’s a full-blown military confrontation, Seo Sang-young, an analyst from Seoul-based Kiwoom Securities, said.

“The rise in crude prices could hurt areas like the airlines, chemicals and shipping, but it could also actually benefit some businesses, such as energy companies (including refineries) that produce and export fuel products like gasoline,” said Seo, pointing to the diversity of South Korea’s industrial lineup. South Korea’s shipbuilding industry could also benefit as the rise in oil prices could further boost the growing demand for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, which means more orders for giant tankers that transport such gas.