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Court papers filed to shut down Asiacell

Iraqi mobile operator Asiacell is under threat of being shut down, according to Qatari telco Qtel, which indirectly owns a 40% stake in the company.

Iraqi mobile operator Asiacell is under threat of being shut down, according to Qatari telco Qtel, which indirectly owns a 40% stake in the company.

Asiacell is 40% owned by Wataniya, the Kuwaiti mobile phone operator in which Qtel bought a majority stake last month.

Referring to the operator's incorporated headquarters in the Cayman Islands, Qtel said in a statement posted on the Doha stock exchage web site last week: "A petition to liquidate Asia-Cell Cayman...had recently been filed in the Cayman Island courts by Asia-Cell Cayman's majority shareholder."

The statement gave no reason for the petition or any other details.

Established in 1999, Asiacell owns Iraq's northern mobile licence, covering a region from Dahuk on the Turkish border down to Diyala, north of Baghdad.

As of the end of December 2006, it had more than two million GSM subscribers, equivalent to a 26% share of the market.

The rest of Asiacell is divided between Iraqi-Kurdish company Asia-Cell Telecommunications, which has a 51% stake, and Bahrain-based United Gulf Bank, which holds a 9% share.

Asiacell contributed US$171.8 million to Wataniya's net profit in 2006, according to Wataniya's website.

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