In a statement last night, the Lebanese government said that Kuwait’s Zain Group and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom had both been awarded one-year contracts to manage the operations of the country’s two GSM mobile networks, commencing 1 February. An extension to Zain’s contract to run Mobile Interim Company (MIC 2), under the name MTC Touch Lebanon, officially ran out last month, but the Kuwaiti group has been allowed to remain at the helm, whilst Orascom will take over the reins of MIC 1, branded as Alfa, from the Ministry of Telecoms (MoT), after the state cancelled the operating contract of Fal Dete Telecommunications, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom subsidiary DeTeCon International and Saudi Arabia’s Fal Holdings, at the beginning of December. Zain and Orascom beat off a rival bid from France Telecom. Information Minister Tareq Mitri said: ‘These two companies have…experience in the Lebanese market that allows them to manage well and positions them as the best companies to run this sector.’ According to local press, the new contracts are worth USD145 million. The privatisation of MIC 1 & 2 has been put on hold until after the next elections in May 2009.