Axiom Telecom to launch UAE's first IPO in 1.5 years

Dubai-based mobile phone retailer could realise a market capitalisation of up to $1 billion through its IPO next month.

Abu Dhabi - December 9, 2008: The exterior of an Axiom Telecom store at Abu Dhabi Mall. ( Philip Cheung / The National )
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Axiom Telecom, a mobile phone retailer based in Dubai, plans to offer up to 332 million ordinary shares, at a price range of between US$0.80 to $1.15 in its IPO next month, making it the first in the UAE in more than 18 months.

The first day of trading, on Nasdaq Dubai, will start on December 9, said Faisal al Bannai, the founder and chief executive of Axiom Telecom.

The company's market capitalisation after the IPO is expected to be between US$760 million and $1.093 billion, it announced today.

About $100 million of the money raised will go into Axiom, and the rest will go to its shareholders.

It expects to sell up to 35 per cent of its shares, he said, but the IPO is only being made available to certain institutional investors and not the general public.

This was based on the overall market sentiment, and the nervousness amongst retail investors, said Mr al Bannai.

"We felt based on all the institutional feedback we received that there is enough demand that we can generate today from institutions... And the retail investors can go to the secondary market as the stocks are trading," he said.

The listing on NASDAQ Dubai will be the first real test of investor appetite this year and, if successful, might encourage other companies to list, analysts say.

The retailer has more than 600 stores across the Gulf, India and the UK.

Last year, Axiom had revenue of Dh5 billion (US$1.36bn). In the first six months of this year, it had revenue of Dh3bn. Axiom is 40 per cent owned by Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group (DHCOG), a company owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. DHCOG is the parent company of the Jumeirah Group, a hospitality business that owns Dubai's Burj Al Arab luxury hotel, and TECOM Investments, which owns and operates several economic free zones in the emirate.

Each of the shareholders are selling an equal stake, Mr al Bannai said.

Dubai Holding's troubles was not a factor in pushing Axiom to go public, he said.

"None of the shareholders had to do with the decision to go pushing to go to an IPO... I think this is the right time, we need to support our growth."