Iraqi telecom operator Kalimat plans to launch an initial public offering (IPO) next year and to invest $250 million 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 told Reuters 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 3 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.
(Editing by David Holmes)