UAE-based telecoms group Etisalat has refused to hand over an outstanding USD800 million payment relating to the privatisation of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL), the Nation writes. Etisalat had agreed in January 2006 to purchase a 26% stake in PTCL from the government for USD2.6 billion, settling on a staggered five-year payment plan for the operator. Etisalat stopped the payments in September 2007, however, explaining that it was withholding the last USD799 million until the state had transferred a number of properties included in the acquisition to it. Although the government has announced on several occasions that it is close to completing its end of the deal, Etisalat has refused to make the final payment until 100% of the properties have been transferred.
Speaking to a sub-committee of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue earlier this week, Chairman of the Privatisation Commission, Mohammad Zubair, revealed that the government could not transfer the last 34 (of a total of 3,500) PTCL properties to Etisalat for a number of reasons, chief amongst which was the vast disparity in valuations from Islamabad and Etisalat. Whilst the government valuation of the outstanding properties was USD92 million, Etisalat has assessed their value to be closer to USD400 million. The official added that the Privatisation Commission has written a letter to Etisalat seeking to end the eight-year dispute.