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Vodafone Qatar upbeat about IPO

CFO expects sale of 40% stake in unit, intended to raise 3.38bn riyals, to be fully subscribed.

The Qatari unit of Vodafone Group Plc, the world's biggest mobile phone group by sales, expects its initial public offering to be fully subscribed, the chief financial officer said on Monday.

The offering, the first in Qatar in more than a year and open only to Qatari firms and individuals, aims to raise 3.38 billion riyals ($929.1 million) from the sale of a 40 percent stake.

The shares are expected to be listed on the Doha bourse by June. The IPO opened on April 12 and closed on Sunday.

Appetite for IPOs in the Gulf, once a popular tool for raising capital, has waned as the financial crisis hit home and Gulf stock markets tumbled.

Only two IPOs have come to the market in the first three months of the year, compared with 13 in the same period in 2008, Ernst & Young (E&Y) said in a report earlier this month.

Vodafone Qatar secured Qatar's second mobile licence in December 2007 for $2.12 billion, breaking the telephone monopoly of state-controlled Qatar Telecommunications Co.

A share sale was delayed from November last year due to market conditions.

"We expect the IPO to be at least fully subscribed," John Tombelson told Reuters on Monday. "We expect full data on the IPO late on Wednesday."

Vodafone Qatar started operations on March 1, providing services to 1,000 customers who tested the network. It plans gradually to expand services from May 1.

The unit is targeting a market share of 33 percent in the the first three years, Tombleson said in March.

The Qatari licence is Vodafone's second foray into the Middle East and North Africa region, where it operates in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous state. (Reuters)

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