Qatar Telecom (Qtel) is looking to purchase a private equity partner’s share of Iraq’s second largest mobile operator by subscribers Asiacell, ahead of the cellco’s initial public offering (IPO) expected to take place later this year. According to a report by Reuters which cites two banking sources, the Qatari incumbent, which owns a 30% stake in Asiacell, is eyeing London-based partner MerchantBridge’s 19% interest in the cellco. Morgan Stanley is assisting Qtel in the process, while MerchantBridge is being advised by Credit Suisse, the unnamed sources said, adding that a sale of the private equity firm’s stake was likely to happen before the IPO.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database states that Asiacell – along with Iraq’s two other national cellcos Kuwaiti-owned Zain Iraq and Korek, part-owned by France Telecom – were all required to list 25% of their shares on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) by 31 August 2011 under the terms of their 15-year national mobile concessions. The licences were awarded in August 2007 for USD1.25 billion each. While all three operators failed to list on the bourse by the end of August 2011, the country’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) has said that the trio will not face sanctions for missing the deadline. Last October Asiacell selected HSBC and Morgan Stanley to manage its IPO, while Zain Iraq has appointed BNP Paribas, Citigroup and National Bank of Kuwait to run its offering.