Politics delays Lebanon’s mobile auction again

6 May 2008

Lebanon is expected to postpone the planned privatisation of its two mobile network operators for a second time, because of the continuing political impasse in the country. The state is due to launch a sale offering two-thirds stakes in each operator this month, but a report from Middle East Business Intelligence says that the two companies managing the state-owned networks – Zain Group and Alfa – have had their concessions extended until the end of this year in anticipation of further delays. A source quoted by the publication said: ‘The regulator cannot do anything without parliamentary approval and a new president…The government does not have the political backing to privatise the networks.’ Ten telecoms investors are expected to take part in the auction, including Zain, Etisalat, Orascom, Qatar Telecom and Saudi Telecom.