Vodafone Qatar expects its delayed initial public offering (IPO) to go ahead next month, Reuters reports. The start-up mobile and fixed line operator is poised to break the monopolies of state-run Qatar Telecom (Qtel) but must first receive approval from the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA) to proceed with its planned IPO of 40% of its shares. A company spokeswoman told Reuters this morning, ‘Because of market conditions the QFMA told us to hold off and propose a new date, which we did…We will be given a date next month.’ The spokeswoman confirmed that Vodafone Qatar remained on track to launch commercial mobile services on 1 March, over a GSM network with capacity for one million users, although she added, ‘We will have customers on the first day but we don’t know how many. It will be a phased launch approach.’ Negotiations between Vodafone Qatar and Qtel about interconnection charges are ongoing, the spokeswoman said.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database says that a consortium of UK-based Vodafone Group and Qatar Foundation (a non-profit organisation established by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani) won Qatar’s second mobile operating licence in December 2007 with a bid of QAR7.716 billion (USD2.12 billion). It was awarded its 20-year concession on 29 June 2008, after completing legal processes to finalise its ownership structure and submitting plans for an IPO to sell 40% of its shares to the public and 15% to local governmental institutions, as a pre-requisite to launching services in the country. The IPO was originally scheduled for end-June 2008, before a new deadline of 30 November 2008 was put forward, but the company did not get the go-ahead from the financial regulator. After the planned share sales Vodafone Group will control 22.95% of Vodafone Qatar. Of the remainder, Qatar Foundation holds 22.05%, and the rest has been allocated for public shareholders (40%) and government/domestic institutions (Foundation for Education, Science & Community Development [5%], Military Pension Fund [3.3%], Military Staff Loan Funds [3.4%] and Health & Education Endowment [3.3%]).
On 15 September 2008 Vodafone Qatar was announced as the winner of Qatar’s second fixed line network operating licence, with a WiMAX wireless frequency concession thrown in. As the largest single shareholder, Vodafone Group has overall board control and a five-year management contract.