Mobile phone company Zain Iraq announced that it will put 25% of its shares on the Iraqi stock market, less than three weeks after its rival Asiacell placed a portion of its shares on the same market. Observers claim that these offerings represent a qualitative shift of how business will be done on the Baghdad Stock Exchange.
The two companies are in a heated competition to dominate the Iraqi market, with Zain Iraq claiming that at the time of its public offering its subscribers totaled 14 million, while Asiacell claims to have 10 million.
The two companies and a third mobile phone company, Cork [Korek], obtained licensing to operate in Iraq after having contracted with the Iraqi government in 2007. Zain Iraq is a branch of the Zain Kuwait Co. and most of its activities are focused on southern and central Iraq.
Gulf companies have the largest stake in Asiacell shares, while Cork is owned by Iraqi businessmen. Cork is also contractually bound to offer 25% of its shares according to the licensing agreement it has with Baghdad, but has yet to announce any procedures towards this end.
Zain Iraq and Asiacell undertook a series of measures to shift from operating as private companies to shareholder companies in preparation for offering their shares on the public market. These measures included selling off technical support sectors to private companies, taking inventory of assets, and determining the periodic disclosure formats for profits and losses.