Iraq's Kalimat plans 2012 IPO, eyes $250m spend

Telco aims to triple subscriber base before IPO launch next year, says chief exec
Iraq's Kalimat plans 2012 IPO, eyes $250m spend
Wilson Varghese, Kalimat chief executive, said the planned IPO should help the company expand as it eyes a nationwide rollout of services
By Reuters
Thu 28 Apr 2011 12:00 PM

Iraqi telecom operator Kalimat plans to launch an initial
public offering (IPO) next year and to invest $250m in 2011, aiming to triple
its subscriber base in the war-torn country, its top executive said.

Wilson Varghese, Kalimat chief executive, said the planned
IPO should help the company expand as it eyes a nationwide rollout of services
by the end of this year.

"The main growth driver for us will be the roll-out across
the country and [the provision of] ... value added services that will increase
our subscriber base," he said on the sidelines of a telecoms conference in
Abu Dhabi.

Kalimat, majority owned by Kuwait's royal family and which
operates in six major Iraqi cities, plans to provide mobile, fixed and data
services throughout the country by November this year. Its subscriber base of
300,000 would more than triple by the end of 2011, Varghese said.

As it expands coverage, Kalimat expects subscribers to grow
to three million by the end of 2012, he said. Penetration rates in 3G are
around 24 percent with more potential to tap, he said.

Iraq, with a population of 29 million, has three licensed
players in the 3G and 4G market where Kalimat operates. There are three 2G
operators.

Kalimat plans to go public before end of 2012, having
delayed an IPO which had been scheduled for this year. "It is part of our
exit strategy," he said, but declined to give more details on the planned
offering.

Although stability has been restored in Iraq, telecom
operators continue to face challenges. "It is primarily from the political
side, because Iraq does not understand the private sector running this
industry. It is hard for us to gain recognition," he said.

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