Grameenphone shares soar after Bangladesh's biggest IPO

* Shares end up 153 pct after raising $70 mln

* Listing a big boost to Dhaka market; index jumps 21.2 pct

* Grameenphone largest player in fast-growing mobile market

The listing of Grameenphone, 55.8 percent-owned by Norway's Telenor TEL.OL after the IPO, was a big boost for the $16 billion stock market and spurred a record 21.2 percent rise in the benchmark Dhaka index .DSI to an all-time high.

Shares in Grameenphone, which has a 44 percent share of the Bangladesh mobile market, ended up 153 percent at 177.30 taka, compared with the IPO price of 70 taka each.

“I think the debut has been fantastic. This will give a huge boost to the stock market,” said Syed Tawkir Husain, a director at brokerage house Imtiyaz Husain Securities Ltd.

“We consider it as a positive one as it is a multinational company and top mobile company whose market placement was highly demanded by most of the banking and financial institutions nearly a year ago,” he told Reuters.

Bangladesh’s mobile sector has grown rapidly, with subscriber numbers reaching over 51 million at end-October from 200,000 in 2001, helped by competitive tariffs, cheap handsets and steady economic growth.

Analysts predict the number of subscribers in the country could top 70 million by 2011, nearly half its population of 150 million.

Grameenphone was founded in 1996 by Norwegian telecoms group Telenor, the second-largest foreign operator in Asia, and Grameen Telecom, which was launched by microfinance pioneer and Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

At end-October Grameenphone had 22.30 million subscribers -- well ahead of Egyptian Orascom Telecom's ORTE.CA Banglalink and Telecom Malaysia's TLMM.KL Aktel.

Other operators include CityCell, a joint venture between Pacific Bangladesh Telecom and Singapore Telecommunications STEL.SI, Gulf-based Warid Telecom and state-run Teletalk.

The stock touched a high of 195 taka after having debuted at 160 taka, which was the lowest price of the day.

The company, which posted a 10 percent rise in third-quarter revenue to $239 million, raised the same amount through a pre-IPO private placing to local institutional investors last December.

The shares were quoted on both of the country’s stock exchanges, in Dhaka and Chittagong.

Grameenphone will also enjoy a tax cut of 10 percentage points introduced by the government for cellphone operators that list on the stock exchange. ($1 = 69.05 taka) (Editing by Anis Ahmed and Lincoln Feast)