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BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraqi mobile phone service provider Asiacell has begun shelling shares on the Iraq Stock Exchange in what the head of the bourse says is the biggest initial public offering in the Middle East since 2008.

Asiacell was offering on Sunday a quarter of its shares, or 67.5 billion, as part of licensing requirements. The company is hoping to raise $1.3 billion, with the initial share price set at 22 Iraqi dinars, or just under 2 cents, apiece.

Taha al-Rubaye, the head of the exchange, says the sale would double the market capitalization of the ISX to about $9 billion.

A successful floatation on Baghdad's low-volume stock exchange could reassure international investors, many of whom remain wary of the risky Iraqi market nearly a decade after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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