Mobile tender fails; telecoms ministry to pick up pieces

10 Dec 2015

Lebanon’s Ministry of Telecoms (MoT) is examining its options after the failure of the country’s cellular network operating tender. A deadline passed on Tuesday with no result reached in the tender for new three-year management contracts at Lebanon’s two state-owned cellular networks, Touch and Alfa, leaving the telecoms ministry to either renew the contracts with the existing management firms, Zain Group and Orascom Telecom, Media & Technology (OTMT), or opt to allow the state to run the firms. Quoted by The Daily Star, telecoms minister Boutros Harb accused certain ministers of ‘jeopardising’ the cellular tender but promised to maintain the mobile services irrespective of the decision he will take. The Prime Minister’s Tender Office rejected the outcome of the tender due to inadequate competition, because it required at least three companies to submit formal bids. Orange Group of France reportedly placed a formal bid alongside Kuwaiti-based Zain, but Egyptian firm OTMT apparently refrained from participating in the tender – despite previously being reinstated in the process by a decision of Lebanon’s Shura Council (having initially been disqualified for a late initial bid application).

Sources told the Star that the MoT’s conditions were thought to be ‘too tough’ to be met by OTMT. The MoT is now looking at whether to renew Zain and OTMT’s contracts for between three to six months, or pass management responsibilities to the state. Five ministers voiced objections to the tender conditions set by Mr Harb, claiming that he did not abide by the terms and conditions that were agreed upon in Cabinet sessions.