Qatar Telecom now owns 64.1% of Asiacell

Updated 05 February 2013

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.”


Jubilant cheers as Dubai begins one-year countdown to Expo 2020

Updated 20 October 2019

Jubilant cheers as Dubai begins one-year countdown to Expo 2020

  • Dubai prepares for eye-catching countdown on Burj Khalifa
  • Live performances from singer Mariah Carey and acclaimed Emirati singer and Expo 2020 ambassador Hussain Al-Jassmi

DUBAI: Crowds gathered at different locations in the UAE on Sunday night to mark its one-year countdown to Expo 2020 in October next year, with host emirates Dubai staging a spectacular concert, topped by a light projection on the iconic Burj Khalifa.

American superstar Mariah Carey was the star of the night, which also saw performances from regional artists including Khalifa, Shamma Hamdan, Abri and Funk Radius, Showcase and Jaysus Zain. The audience also grooved to a few Arabic tunes from Emirati singer Hussain Al-Jassmi.

A make-shift stage was set up at the Burj Park in Dubai’s downtown area to host the performances, while people also enjoyed a good view of the tallest building in the world. The countdown was facilitated by Emirati social media sensation Khalid Al-Ameri and Bollywood actress Shraddah Kapoor. 

A 3-minute firework display lit up the skies of Dubai as the crowd eagerly waited for Carey to appear on stage.

The 49-year-old singer sang her all-time favorite songs, including “Emotion,” “We Belong Together,” and a revival of the Motown classic “I’ll Be There,” to an enthusiastic audience who didn’t mind the heat and humidity at the outdoor venue.

The other six emirates also marked the occasion with free-for-all activities in venues such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Al Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah, Ajman Museum, Umm Al Quwain Corniche, Al Qawasim Corniche in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah Fort.

The events, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Expo 2020 Director-General Reem Al-Hashimy said, will “offer a window into the once-in-a-lifetime celebration that awaits from October 20, 2020.”

“The next 12 months will see us put the finishing touches to ensure an exceptional World Expo,” she added, in a report by state-run WAM.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi featured YouTube sensation Sandra Sahi, as well as singers Stephon Lemar, Layla Kardan, the Emirati Trio.

Indian band ROOH, singer and pianist Clarita de Quiroz, Egyptian oud player Rami Zaki and other regional artists were celebrating the count down at Sharjah’s Al Marjaz waterfront.

While the Ajman Museum hosted Arabic fusion band, pop-rock musician Hydyy, Emirati soul singer Chakram, poet Storm Fernandes, artist Humaira Hussain and MC Mohammed Enaba.

The 6-month Expo 2020, to be held at a vast new site in the south of Dubai, will officially open on Oct. 20 next year, with organizers expecting an estimate of 25 million visitors.