Orascom to join Zain, Batelco in Lebanon mobile auction

6 Nov 2007

Egyptian mobile group Orascom Telecom is considering entering the upcoming auction for one of two state-owned Lebanese mobile network operators, its chairman Naguib Sawiris said yesterday. The Egyptian tycoon dismissed risks of political instability in the country, saying that the main problem would be high prices set by the Lebanese government, which hopes to raise as much as USD7 billion from the sale on 21 February. Sawiris said his group, which has stakes in countries including Iraq, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, was used to political and security risks. ‘This is normal for us…Beirut is like a safe haven,’ he told press. At present, Lebanon’s only two mobile networks – MTC Touch Lebanon and Alfa – are managed under government contracts by Kuwaiti-based Zain Group (formerly MTC Group) and German-Saudi consortium DeTeCon respectively. The state also intends to issue a third mobile licence to fixed line incumbent Ogero Telecom (which will be renamed Liban Telecom). Bahrain’s Batelco has also said it is planning investments in Lebanon as part of a USD4 billion foreign acquisition plan, whilst Zain Group has announced a plan to bid in the auction to remain in the country, although it too has expressed concern over high prices.