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Sat 24 Jan 2009 12:29 PM

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Top fixed-line firm announces $80mn IPO - Saudi

Etihad Atheeb Telecommunications wants to sell 30% of its capital.

Etihad Atheeb Telecommunications Company, one of three firms licensed to operate new fixed-line networks in Saudi Arabia, launched an initial public offering (IPO) to raise $80 million on Saturday.

Atheeb, which comprises Bahrain Telecommunications Compnay (Batelco) and Saudi private investors, is looking to sell 30 million shares, or 30 percent of its capital, at 10 riyals each, according to a sale prospectus.

The IPO will close on Feb. 2 and is Saudi Arabia's first IPO since August.

The local bourse lost more than half of its value in 2008 and analysts say Saudi regulators have put on hold IPOs until investor sentiment improves.

Etihad Atheeb will face competition from 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 Comany, led by US Verizon Communications Inc and al-Mutakamilah Company which is led by Hong Kong's PCCW.

STC has about 4.5 million fixed-line subscribers and around 1.3 million internet users. Saudi Arabia has a population of 24 million.

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

After the IPO, Batelco will have a 15 percent stake in Atheeb and Atheeb Group will hold 25 percent.

Other shareholders include private Nahla Company with 13.72 percent and state-run General Organisation for Social Insurance with five percent, according to the prospectus. (Reuters)

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