Lebanon postpones mobile network sale

23 Jan 2008

Lebanon has postponed the auction of the country’s two mobile phone network operators by three months because of a political stalemate over the election of a new president, reports Bloomberg. Telecoms minister Marwan Hamadeh confirmed that the coalition government had moved the 21 February auction deadline to May, saying: ‘We had committed ourselves to this February, but we will not take a decision before a new president and a new government takes over.’ The state, which will retain a third of the shares in the two companies, currently named Alfa (or Mobile Interim Company 1, MIC 1) and MTC Touch (MIC 2), hopes to raise USD7 billion from the sale to repay debt. Revenue from telecommunications accounts for about 40%, Hamadeh said. ‘We need a good climate to attract investors,’ he added. Lebanon has been without a head of state since November when Syrian-backed Emile Lahoud left office at the end of his term.

German-backed DeTeCon and Kuwaiti-based Zain’s contracts for running Alfa and MTC Touch expire in June 2008. Major telcos from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt have all expressed an interest in bidding to take ownership of one of the networks, whilst Hamadeh also told of an approach from an unnamed French-German company.