Wataniya Palestine - part owned by Qtel- plans public offer
Reuters- Wataniya Palestine, part owned by Qatar Telecom (Qtel), plans to offer 30% of its shares in an initial public offering (IPO) later this year, Mohammad Mustafa, head of the company’s board, said yesterday. “We hope that this summer the company will be able to put about 30% of its shares in the market for the public to own,” he said. Mustafa said Wataniya Palestine had hired an advisory team to determine the share price and the date for the IPO. The shares would be offered on the Palestine Securities Exchange, based in Nablus. “This would help (in) deepening the Palestinian stock market. The impact of Wataniya in the market is going to be significant (to) the financial market and the economy at large,” Mustafa said. Mustafa is head of the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), which is owned by the Palestinian Authority and is a 47% shareholder in Wataniya Palestine, alongside Qtel with 53% – stakes that will drop to 30% and 40% respectively after the IPO. Mustafa said the company, which was launched in November as the second mobile operator in the Palestinian territories, had so far invested some $320 in infrastructure and licence fees. The other operator, Jawwal, is owned by The Palestine Telecommunications Co (Paltel). Wataniya Palestine’s performance has so far been “very promising, very encouraging”, Mustafa said. The company had beaten expectations for subscriber growth and has more than 160,000 customers, Mustafa said. Since the launch of the second operator, Wataniya and Jawwal have been competing in service provision and cutting prices. “The 160,000 figure is above expectations. We are very pleased about that. That shows clearly that the demand is there that the customer has been waiting for this operator to start providing service. “We hope this success (will) continue and we look forward to even better results by the end of the year,” he added. The company began setting up its West Bank network three years ago but the launch was held up by factors including lengthy delays in getting equipment through Israeli customs and a struggle to obtain frequencies for the network. Israel, which occupied the West Bank in a 1967 war, controls the airwaves of the territory, home to 2.5mn Palestinians. Wataniya Palestine was launched without the full range of frequencies which Israel had agreed to release for it. “I assume that this is being settled ... because the agreement with the Israeli side was that as soon as Wataniya reaches a certain level – 150,000 customers – they would be able to use (an) extra 1 MHz,” Mustafa said.