Major mobile groups interested in running Lebanese networks, says minister

19 Nov 2014

Lebanese telecoms minister Boutros Harb told the Daily Star Newspaper on Monday that major international mobile operators such as Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Orange Group, Zain Group and Etisalat are interested in bidding in an upcoming process which he hopes will see two-year contracts awarded to manage Lebanon’s two state-owned cellular networks, in place of the short-term rolling contracts currently held by Zain and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom. Harb said that ‘great interest’ was confirmed by various potential bidders within the framework of the minister’s recent visits to Dubai, South Korea and China. In October Harb extended the management contracts for Touch (Zain) and Alfa (Orascom) for six months to give the telecoms ministry time to finalise terms and conditions and gain state approval for the longer-term contracting process. During the mooted two-year management period, Harb intends to push for implementing delayed telecoms sector reforms as per Law 431 of 2002, which stipulates the transformation of state-owned incumbent fixed line operator Ogero into Liban Telecom, an integrated telco licensed for all mobile/fixed services and earmarked for privatisation. Harb explained that the government would look to attract a major international strategic partner ‘such as Vodafone or Orange’ to take a 40% stake in Liban Telecom, thereby significantly boosting competition.