Tunisia’s Ministry of Industry and Technology (MinCom) has authorised Emirates International Telecommunications (EIT) to sell off its 35% stake in majority state-owned operator Tunisie Telecom (TT). EIT has repeatedly clashed with union representatives, TT’s managers and the government after the UAE-based firm was excluded from decision making in early 2011. MinCom’s permission to sell the shareholding came with the caveat that the buyer be an experienced global telecommunications operator, in the hopes that the new partner would be a valuable addition to TT, particularly in the field of services and technology development.
As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, TT had planned an initial public offering (IPO) in late 2010 that would divest a 20% stake in TT (10% each from the government and EIT) via a dual listing on the Tunis and Paris exchanges. The ousting of the Tunisian president in early 2011 derailed the plans and a meeting the following month betwen the Tunisian General Trade Union (UGTT) and government officials scrapped the sale entirely, reportedly over fears that further privatisation might result in lay-offs. Left out of the meeting entirely, EIT challenged the legality of the decision and renewed efforts to forge ahead with the IPO, albeit without success. Deepak Padmanabhan, the chief executive of EIT had said that, ‘for such a resolution to be valid it would need to be approved by a qualified majority of the board of directors consisting of representatives from the state of Tunisia and EIT’. However, a leading member of the UGTT, Mohamed Mongi Ben M’Barek, countered that TT is a public company: ‘We don’t need to bring our demands to TT’s strategic partner, we bring them to the Tunisian state.’