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Sat 21 Mar 2009 12:50 PM

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Shares in Saudi telecoms firm rise on back of IPO

UPDATE 1: Etihad Atheeb sees share price increase by almost 60%.

Shares in Saudi Arabia's Etihad Atheeb Telecommunications Co soared by up to 59 percent on their debut on Saturday with investors exchanging more shares than the number sold in an IPO last month.

A total of 46.32m shares changed hands at an average SR14.7 ($3.92) per share, according to data from the stock exchange's website, about two hours after trading opened.

The stock peaked at SR15.9 before retreating to SR14.15 at 10.11 GMT.

Atheeb sold 30m shares - equivalent to 30 percent of its share capital - at SR10 riyals each in an initial public offering that was almost 2.5 times oversubscribed.

The IPO was Saudi Arabia's first since August after bourse regulators froze fresh listings after the global financial crisis hit local and global markets.

Etihad Atheeb is one of three firms licensed to operate new fixed-line networks.

Several Saudi firms, including fast-food chain Herfy, soft-drinks maker Aujan and steel maker al-Ittefaq Steel Products Co, have had to postpone plans to sell shares to the public.

The global financial crisis worsened the woes of the Saudi bourse which had not recovered fully from a 2006 crash. The largest Arab bourse lost more than half of its value in 2008 and fell about 80 percent from a lifetime peak in 2006.

Atheeb will face competition from current fixed-line monopoly Saudi Telecom (STC) and two other firms that won licences last year to offer fixed-line services.

The two other firms are Optical Communications Co, led by US Verizon Communications Inc and Al Mutakamilah Company, which is led by Hong Kong's PCCW.

Etihad Atheeb has said it plans to invest $1 billion over five years in its fixed-line operation and wants to target government and industrial hubs as well as regions covered insufficiently by STC. (Reuters)

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