Mobile operator Zain Iraq still wants to list its shares more than three years after missing a deadline, parent Zain said yesterday, although fund managers warned violence in the country and weak market infrastructure could deter investors.
Iraq’s three mobile operators ‘“ Zain Iraq, Ooredoo unit Asiacell and Orange affiliate Korek ‘“ were each required to float a quarter of their shares and list on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) by August 2011, under the terms of their network licences.
All missed the deadline, incurring ongoing daily fines, a delay some experts blamed on the exchange’s low trading volumes and the small overall market capitalisation of its companies.
Asiacell eventually joined the ISX in February last year, selling 25 per cent of its shares for $1.27 billion in Iraq’s largest ever initial public offering (IPO), while last September Zain Iraq said it hoped to float in the first half of 2014, raising ‘north of $1bn’.
But the prospect of Zain conducting such a process seems remote after much of the west and north of Iraq fell under the control of the Islamic State militant group.
‘Against the backdrop of security and safety issues, Zain Iraq is today mainly focused on maintaining its network and providing much needed mobile services to our customers and the Iraqi community at large,’ said a spokesman for Kuwaiti parent company Zain. ‘Nevertheless Zain Iraq, in co-ordination with its advisers and the Iraqi authorities is continuing its efforts to undertake the IPO.’
The spokesman said Zain Iraq would stage the IPO ‘at a time deemed appropriate for all stakeholders and the investment community’, but did not specify when, or what the firm would do with the money raised in a listing.