Zain to offload stake in Iraqi unit through IPO

Sun Mar 3, 2013 5:09am EST
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By Matt Smith and Aseel Kami

DUBAI/BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Kuwait telecom operator Zain (ZAIN.KW: Quote) may be the sole seller in its Iraqi unit's IPO which could substantially cut its stake while maintaining its majority control.

Zain Iraq must float a quarter of its shares and list on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) as part of its $1.25 billion licence, as were Iraq's two other national operators.

The company expects to finalize details of the initial public offering by the end of June, Wael Ghanayem, Zain Iraq's chief financial and operating officer told Reuters in an emailed response to questions.

If the IPO is fully subscribed, Zain's stake in Iraq's No.1 operator and one of its key subsidiaries could fall to 51 percent from 76 percent. It was not clear if Zain Iraq plans to sell more than 25 percent in the IPO.

The share sale may be Iraq's largest ever, topping No.2 operator Asiacell's TASC.ISX $1.27 billion floatation earlier in February, with the proceeds likely to be used to improve Zain Iraq's network or repatriated back to Kuwait.

Aside from Zain's stake, the remaining 24 percent of Zain Iraq is held by "strategic Iraqi investors", according to a statement from Zain.

Separately, Ghanayem said a foreign shareholder will be the seller in the IPO "rather than the existing Iraqi shareholder"

When asked if Zain was indeed the sole seller, Zain was non-committal.   Continued...

A Kuwaiti man exits the main doors of the Zain Telecommunication head office in Kuwait City October 13,2009. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee