Pakistani government board, the Privatisation Commission, has invited potential investors to place bids for a 26% stake in dominant fixed line telco Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited (PTCL). The Commission said in a statement that the final proposals will be selected on 28 January 2005 with the winning bidder being given management control of the company. The privatisation procedure has been put on hold for several years, as the government has been mulling whether to sell the company as a whole or split it up into at least three separate units, a move which it suggested could spur competition in the sector. It has, however, decided to keep it integrated following the advice of analysts. In the past, foreign players Singapore Telecom (SingTel) and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom have expressed an interest in acquiring a stake in PTCL. The government currently holds an 88% stake in the telco.
PTCL is the main provider of fixed line telephony services in Pakistan, with 4.74 million lines in service at the end of September 2004, although government organisations the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) and the Special Communications Organisation (SCO) also provide access lines in the more remote areas of the country including the northern region of Kashmir. It looks likely to lose its dominance soon, however, with the PTA revealing on 19 July 2004 that nine fixed line licences had been awarded – three for long-distance and international (LDI) services and six for local loop operations. The new LDI licensees are Callmate Telips Telecommunication, Link Direct International and World Call Telecom, while the successful candidates for the fixed local loop licences were Dancom Pakistan, Ion, Unified Technologies, World Call Broadband, World Call Multimedia and CCZ.