By Karin Laub, The Associated Press. Used with permission by Iraq Business News.
An Iraqi telecom company raised nearly $1.3 billion Sunday on Baghdad’s small stock exchange in one of the region’s biggest share offers in years — a sign of investor confidence in the fledgling private sector despite violence that still plagues the country.
In a reminder of Iraq’s volatility, several suicide attackers on foot and in two explosives-laden cars assaulted a provincial police headquarters in northern Iraq, killing at least 15 people and wounding 90. Rescue workers led away dazed survivors, including veiled women climbing over debris, and pulled several mangled and scorched bodies from the rubble.
The level of violence has dropped sharply since the worst sectarian fighting in 2006-2007, yet bombings and shootings still kill dozens of people every month. Investors say the continued security risks, along with concerns about official red tape and corruption, have restricted the growth of Iraq’s private sector.
Iraq sits on vast oil reserves, and foreign investment has focused heavily on the government-controlled energy sector.
So it was good news for the Iraq economy when nearly two-thirds of the money raised by the telecom company came from foreign buyers.
“Iraq is a very difficult place to do business in,” said Shwan Taha, head of Rabee Securities, the brokerage firm that organized Sunday’s share float of Asiacell, one of Iraq’s three main mobile phone service providers. “Iraq came out of a long dictatorship. We had 30 years of war and sanctions. We missed a lot of trains, not only one.”