INTERNATIONAL: Saudi Telecom raises IR before privatisation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's state-owned telecoms firm Saudi Telecom is stepping up its investor relations efforts ahead of a stock market debut in the new year, marking the kingdom's largest privatisation since 1984.

It will be Saudi's biggest since the part sale of Saudi Basic Industries 18 years ago - and one which is set to lead the way for a raft of similar moves.

Manning Selvage & Lee Middle East is leading the PR efforts, with its London-based financial arm Capital Communications handling the IR programme.

Capital won the brief last month after a competitive pitch.

MS&L's sister ad agency Leo Burnett has also been tasked with leading the ad campaign, designed to encourage buy-in to Saudi Telecom's share issue.

Capital director Nick Lockwood said that they are handling mainly IR and media relations, reporting to Saudi Telecom vice-president of marketing Saleh Al-Jafr.

'There are 100,000 people who are registered owners of shares in Saudi and it is estimated this amount will go up to 700,000 after this privatisation,' said Lockwood.

Saudi Telecom, which is valued at £8.7bn, is planning to float 30 per cent on the Saudi Stock Exchange, with 20 per cent going to private Saudi investors and ten per cent to state pension funds.

The shares subscription phase begins next week, lasting three weeks, ahead of an IPO on the Tadawul stock exchange next February.

Saudi Telecom last month posted a net profit of £486m for the first nine months of the year.

Saudi finance and economy minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said in the Kuwait Al-Seyassah last month that he expected the sale of stakes in big firms to help substantially reduce debt burdens.

He is reported as saying that the 2002 deficit would be lower than expected, at around £7.6bn.

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