* Qtel wants to up its 53.9 pct stake-bourse official
* Asiacell selling 25 pct of shares
* Subscriptions for 69.5 percent of shares as of 1100 GMT
* Sale will be cancelled if 75 pct threshhold not reached
* Foreign interest outweighs Iraqi-bourse official
(Recasts, adds share sale details, background)
By Aseel Kami
BAGHDAD, Jan 31 Qatar Telecom (Qtel)
plans to raise its stake in Asiacell as part of the Iraqi unit's
$1.35 billion share sale, a Baghdad bourse official said on
Thursday, as the Gulf telco seeks greater control of its foreign
Asiacell will be the first of Iraq's three mobile operators
to carry out a listing, the first major offering since a
U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
In the past year, Qtel has spent $2.16 billion to increase
its holdings in Tunisiana and Kuwait's Wataniya to 90
percent or more, pointing to a strategy of tightening its hold
over existing units rather than expanding its 17-country
footprint across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Muddying this approach has been Asiacell, Iraq's No.2
telecommunications operator and 53.9 percent owned by Qtel,
which must offer a quarter of its shares for public sale as part
of its licence obligations.
The sale process is opaque and it is unclear whether
Asiacell's shareholders would be selling their shares on a
The idea of selling would be at odds with a $1.5 billion
deal struck in June by the former Qatar monopoly to up its stake
in Asiacell to 60 percent from 30 percent.
Market sources said they expected Qtel to use the share sale
to acquire the outstanding shares it still needs to meet its
"According to the information I have, Qtel will not sell its
shares, it is a buyer," Layth Sulaiman, head of the ISX board of
governors, told Reuters.
Qtel could even raise its stake further, although that may
depend on demand from other investors.
As of 1100 GMT, the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) had received
orders for 46.92 billion Asiacell shares, it said in a
statement, or 69.5 percent of the 67.5 billion shares on sale.
These are priced at a minimum of 22 Iraqi dinars ($0.02) each.
If buy orders are less than 75 percent of shares offered,
the sale will be cancelled and the process will start again.
But the bookrunner and bourse officials have said this was
unlikely, with many investors preferring to subscribe in the
final days so that their money is not tied up for long.
Brokers will be able to place orders for the shares until
0630 GMT on Sunday, with trading set to begin later that day.
The share sale is technically not an initial public offering
because Asiacell has already carried out a nominal IPO to
convert to a joint stock company as required under Iraqi law.
Asiacell and domestic rivals Zain Iraq, a subsidiary of
Kuwait's Zain, and France Telecom affiliate
Korek all missed an August 2011 deadline to float a quarter of
Demand from foreign investors for the Asiacell share sale
exceeded that of Iraqis, Sulaiman said.
(Writing by Matt Smith in Dubai, Editing by Andrew Torchia and