Abu Dhabi's Invest AD plans to buy into the region's biggest share sale in the past four years. Asiacell, the Sulaimaniyah-based mobile operator, whose initial public offering begins today, will be the "top holding" in the investment manager's Iraq fund, it said yesterday.
"Asiacell is going to be one of those stocks, that regardless of the price or valuations it sells at, will perform well," said Sherif Salem, the manager of the Invest AD Iraq Opportunity Fund. "We plan to participate. The telecom sector is one of Iraq's biggest stories and our Iraq fund is based on that."
Asiacell, with Qatar Telecom as a major shareholder, plans to raise as much as US$1.3 billion (Dh4.78bn) from investors. The offering is the biggest in the Middle East and North Africa since Saudi Arabian Mining, also known as Ma'aden, raised $2.5 million in June 2008.
Iraq's three mobile companies, Asiacell, Korek, and Zain Iraq, the Kuwaiti telecoms group, are required to list 25 per cent of their shares under the terms of the licences bought in 2007. Asiacell plans to list its shares on the Iraq Stock Exchange on February 3.
Invest AD is bullish on the "telcos", Mr Salem said, amid bets that revenue growth will reach double digits from data service in the near future.
"Though penetration levels have reached 80 per cent, internet reach is still not like other places in the region, which means each user is not generating as much as he potentially would be in the future," Mr Salem said.
Iraq's North Bank is the current top holding, with an 11 per cent allocation in the $19.5 million fund, according to its net asset value in November.
The IPO, if successful, will be a transformational event for the Iraq Stock Exchange, said Geoffrey Batt, who manages the $39 million Euphrates Iraq Fund.
"It would demonstrates that the ISX is a viable capital market," said Mr Batt. "It would also be a catalyst for more attractive companies that are private to list."