Emirates plans up to 30 pct IPO to fund planes

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DUBAI, Nov 13 (Reuters) Emirates airline, the largest Arab carrier, said it intends to sell as much as 30 percent of the company in an initial public offering to help finance more than billion of aircraft purchases.

''We have not begun any steps so far, but the intention is there,'' Emirates Chairman Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum told Al Arabiya television on Tuesday, when asked about IPO plans.

''We are talking about 20-30 percent,'' he said, without indicating when shares might be sold. The stock would list in Dubai, he said, without being more specific.

Emirates spokesman Mike Simon confirmed the comments and said Sheikh Ahmed had in the past said the state-owned company would sell shares in an IPO within two to three years.

''The timing of such an IPO, if there was to be one, would be a decision for the government of Dubai,'' Simon said.

Sheikh Ahmed, who could not immediately be reached on his mobile phone, is also a member of Dubai's executive committee headed by the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

Emirates airline President Tim Clark told Reuters last month any IPO by the 22-year-old company should value it at between billion and billion.

The carrier on Sunday ordered .4 billion of aircraft from Airbus and Boeing Co, with options for 50 more planes, valuing the total potential order at almost billion.

With the options, Emirates plans to take delivery of 246 aircraft worth more than billion during the next few years, it said on Sunday, as it seeks to tap air passenger demand from cities as far apart as Sydney and San Francisco, connecting any two points in the world through its Dubai hub.

BIG CUSTOMERS Emirates is the biggest customer for Airbus's A380, the world's largest civil airliner, capable of carrying as many as 853 passengers.

''We always back this step,'' Sheikh Ahmed said, when asked about a possible IPO. ''It would be positive for the market ...

because Emirates airline is one of the region's big companies.'' Dubai's DP World, the world's fourth-largest container port handler, plans to raise as much as .32 billion in an IPO that closes on Nov. 20 and values the company at as much as .6 billion. It is the first IPO by the Dubai government.

DP World stock will list on the Dubai International Financial Exchange, a bourse the emirate set up in 2005 that operates according to international regulatory standards. The other exchange in Dubai is the Dubai Financial Market.

Based on Sheikh Ahmed's figures and Clark's valuation, an Emirates IPO would seek to raise between billion and billion.

Emirates, which started in 1985 with two planes, has grown to rival carriers such as Qantas Airways and Singapore Airlines for passenger traffic between Europe and east Asia.

The airline, which carried 17.5 million passengers in the year to March 31, has in the past sold bonds and borrowed from banks to finance aircraft acquisitions.

It made a profit of 3.1 billion dirhams (4.2 million) that fiscal year, 25.1 percent more than in the year-earlier period.

REUTERS BJR BD2005

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