Oman raises $530m from sale of 19% of Omantel

Government sale is part of efforts to revive its privatization program

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Oman’s government raised nearly 204 million rials ($530 million) from its sale of a 19 percent stake in Omantel, part of efforts to revive its privatization program, a Muscat bourse statement said on Wednesday.

The government’s holding in the telecommunications operator will drop to 51 percent following the completion of the second and final part of the share sale.

Each tranche - the first a private placement for institutions and wealthy individuals, the second a public offer for retail investors - sold 71.25 million shares.

The two-week retail part, which closed on April 13, was 1.05 times subscribed, according to the statement. This tranche was worth 96.2 million rials, the statement said, suggesting the shares were sold at 1.350 rials each, according to Reuters calculations - below the stock's market price of 1.48 rials in intra-day trade on Wednesday.

The institutional part, completed in March, was 1.99 times subscribed and attracted bids ranging from 1.50 to 1.90 rials per share. The cut-off price at which the placement was fully subscribed was 1.511 rials per share, authorities said earlier.

Shares from the retail segment will be allotted on a proportional basis, so subscribers will receive 95 percent of the shares for which they applied. Refunds will start on April 23, with the shares available for trading “by early next week”, Wednesday’s statement said.

Omantel shares are down 2 percent from last year’s close, marginally underperforming a 1 percent drop by the main stock market index.

The government owns more than 60 companies across the economy, and Minister for Financial Affairs Darwish al-Balushi has said some will be privatized.

Local media quoted officials in March as saying the government, which faces increasing pressure on state finances because of rising spending on social welfare and infrastructure projects, planned to divest its stakes in 11 firms. But a timetable and other details were not given.

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