Tunisian state-owned oil transport and storage firm Sotrapil yesterday sold 780,000 shares at 12.5 dinars ($9.15) each in an initial public offering. Societe de Transport des Hydrocarbures par Pipelines (Sotrapil) aims to raise 9.75 million dinars ($7.13 million) from the offer of shares amounting to 30 per cent of its capital, a company official said.

"The IPO started Tuesday and runs until January 12," the official said. The company, which has a monopoly on oil transport through pipelines, will be listed on Tunis bourse at the end of the IPO. Local broker Sofiges is managing the share sale. Sotrapil did not give a breakdown of the number of shares to be sold to institutional and retail investors.

Some 13,000 shares have been set aside for employees and 39,000 more will be floated on the bourse at an unspecified later date. Sotrapil officials said they saw the IPO as way to raise the company's profile as well as to help financing its development plan.

The firm owns and runs the country's main pipeline linking an oil refinery in Bizerte, north of Tunis, to a storage terminal in Rades, near the Tunisian capital. It plans to build a 180-kilometre pipeline to bring refined oil from an as yet unbuilt refinery in the coastal southern city of Skhira to the Sousse area. Sotrapil has said that the new pipeline will increase its profit by about 15 per cent.

Sotrapil had a 1.55 million dinar net profit for the first half of 2000. Its profit for 1999 stood at 2.76 million dinars compared with 2.27 million in 1998.