Investcom all alone on the DIFX

MOBILE telecommunications services provider Investcom has become the first company to announce its shares will be listed on the Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX) when the bourse opens for business this week.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  September 25, 2005

MOBILE telecommunications services provider Investcom has become the first company to announce its shares will be listed on the Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX) when the bourse opens for business this week. DIFX has been trumpeted by local officials as the project that would turn the emirate into a major financial centre. Investcom CEO Azmi Mikati has denied the exchange is set to become a white elephant, despite the fact his company is the only one listed so far. “It’s early days for DIFX and the market hasn’t officially opened yet,” Mikati told Arabian Business. “It would be unusual for there to have been a flood of companies officially signing up at this stage, but Investcom is very pleased to be the first company to announce an intention to list its shares on the DIFX,” he added. Earlier this year, chairmen, chief executives and other senior staff representing 26 UAE-based companies attended a conference to hear the DIFX explain the advantages of listing shares and other securities on its market. At the time, Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman, director general of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority said that the bourse would attract international and regional investors on a scale unprecedented in the Middle East. “The DIFX is a vitally important project for the whole region, not just Dubai or the UAE,” Bin Sulaiman said. “It will create opportunities for many family businesses by giving them, for the first time in the Middle East, access to international investment in a stable, liquid and credible market,” he added. DIFX has reportedly attracted growing interest from potential issuers across its target region, which includes the GCC and the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as South Africa, Turkey, and the Indian sub-continent. However, Investcom, which moved its base from Luxembourg to the DIFC last week, remains its only listee. The company’s Lebanese CEO, Mikati, predicts a successful future for the bourse. “Dubai is a very strong regional financial and commercial hub, and as an international mobile telecoms operator, based in the Middle East with Middle Eastern management and owners, it’s a natural home for our business,” he said. “We plan to list on the DIFX because we believe that in time the DIFX, based as it is in the leading regional financial hub, will be a success,” he added. Investcom also plans a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) later this year, subject to market conditions. The UK share offer is rumoured to be worth US$750 million, which would value the company at around US$3 billion. “Investcom is looking at a dual listing, with a Global Depositary Receipts (GDR) listing on the LSE. There is a very large concentration of international investors present in London, and we believe Investcom’s investment case is attractive in London,” Mikati continued. “As a company our aim is to have liquid shares that are accessible to investors across the GCC, the Middle East and internationally, and we believe the LSE and the DIFX together will provide this,” he said, adding that the company rejected several potential suitors before deciding to go for an initial public offering in the British capital. Investcom has more than 3.3 million mobile phone subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa and Arab countries such as Syria and Yemen. The company recently added to its portfolio by winning mobile phone licenses for Afghanistan and the West African nation of Guinea. The company is also looking closely at Iraq, where some operators expect growth of 400% this year and next. “Investcom is always examining investments in new markets, which offer growth prospects in under-developed mobile markets,” said Mikati. “Our recent licence wins in Afghanistan and Guinea demonstrate that. In terms of other potential acquisitions, we are looking at bidding for a licence in Saudi and Iraq, among others,” he explained, adding that Iraqi authorities are expected to start issuing national licences soon.

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