The Algerian government has valued the country’s largest cellular operator Djezzy at USD6.5 billion according to local press reports, well above analyst estimates. El Khabar newspaper quoted Telecommunications Minister Moussa Benhamadi as saying that audit firm Shearman & Sterling had arrived at the valuation for the operator. Algiers is looking to acquire a 51% stake in Djezzy, but is still in talks with parent company Vimpelcom, which inherited the cellco last year as part of its USD6.6 billion acquisition of Egyptian firm Orascom Telecom. The negotiations are currently stalled, with Vimpelcom seeking international arbitration after the government hit Djezzy with a USD1.3 billion fine for alleged breaches of foreign exchange regulations several years ago.
Meanwhile, Benhamadi has said that 3G mobile licences will be issued once the situation regarding Djezzy’s ownership is settled. According to a report from Balancing Act Africa, he also told Algeria’s national radio broadcaster that there were no plans to issue a fourth mobile operating concession as part of the 3G licensing process, with existing operators Djezzy, Nedjma and Mobilis already covering the market of some 34.6 million subscribers.