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Etihad Atheeb to start trading on March 21

Saudi regulator confrms market debut date for fixed line telco operator and 300m riyal IPO.

Shares in Saudi Arabia's Etihad Atheeb Telecommunications Co. will start trading on March 21 on the kingdom's bourse, the market regulator said in a statement on Tuesday.

Etihad Atheeb is one of three firms licensed to operate new fixed-line networks. Its 300 million riyal ($80 million) initial public offering was about 2.5 times oversubscribed last month.

Atheeb's debut performance will be closely monitored because its IPO was Saudi Arabia's first since August after bourse regulators froze fresh listings amid jitters that hit local and global markets.

No limit is set for a stock's price movement on the debut day, which is otherwise restricted to 10 percent.

Several Saudi firms, including fast-food chain Herfy, soft-drinks maker Aujan and steel maker al-Ittefaq Steel Products Co, have had to postpone plans to sell shares to the public.

The global financial crisis has worsened the woes of the Saudi bourse which has not recovered fully from a 2006 crash.

The largest Arab bourse lost more than half of its value in 2008 and fell more than 75 percent from a lifetime peak in 2006.

Atheeb will face competition from current fixed-line monopoly Saudi Telecom (STC) and two other firms that won licences last year to offer fixed-line services.

The two other firms are Optical Communications Co, led by US Verizon Communications Inc and al-Mutakamilah Company which is led by Hong Kong's PCCW.

Etihad Atheeb has said it plans to invest $1 billion over five years in its fixed-line operation and to target government and industrial hubs and regions covered insufficiently by STC. (Reuters)