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Mon 1 Sep 2014 08:26 PM

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Viva Kuwait chairman says telco aims to list by year-end

Country's second biggest mobile phone operator plans to list on the Kuwait Stock Exchange

Viva Kuwait chairman says telco aims to list by year-end
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Viva Kuwait, the country's second biggest mobile phone operator by subscribers, plans to list on the Kuwait Stock Exchange by year-end, nearly six years after it completed an initial public offer of shares, the company's chairman said on Monday.

The comments by Adel Mohammad al-Roumi were carried on Kuwait's state news agency KUNA and followed a statement from the company on Sunday that Viva Kuwait, an affiliate of Saudi Telecom Co, had received regulatory approval to join the market.

The company never publicly explained the delay in listing. The global financial crisis appeared to play a role; from its June 2008 peak, Kuwait's main stock index plunged nearly 60 percent to February 2009, and it remains about 53 percent below that high.

The saga also underlined the complex and sometimes unpredictable regulatory environment in Kuwait; periodically during the last six years the company said it was preparing to list, but the listing never happened.

Viva Kuwait raised KD25 million ($87.9 million) from selling half its shares to Kuwaiti nationals in its IPO in September 2008, beginning services later that year.

It has since thrived, and had a 33 percent share of Kuwait's mobile subscribers at the end of June. Rival Zain had 36 percent and Ooredoo subsidiary Wataniya had 31 percent, according to Zain's earnings report.

Viva Kuwait made a net profit of KD24.3 million for 2013, up from KD3.87 million a year earlier. Viva valued its total assets at KD178.99 million at the end of 2013, according to its annual report.

If it goes smoothly, Viva Kuwait's listing could help to pave the way for a revival of IPOs in Kuwait, where activity dried up after the financial crisis. The cabinet decided last month to replace the head of the securities regulator, the Capital Market Authority, after members of parliament criticised it as too strict.

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