Tender for Lebanese mobile operator management contracts ready in three months, says minister

7 May 2020

Lebanese telecoms minister Talal Hawat tweeted on Tuesday after a cabinet session that a tender for new contracts to manage the country’s two state-owned mobile network operators (MNOs) will be ready within three months, and that the Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT) will take over responsibility from the networks’ current private sector management companies in the meantime, Reuters reported.

The two MNOs, Touch Lebanon and Alfa – managed by Kuwait’s Zain Group and Egypt’s Orascom Investment Holding (OIH, formerly Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding [OTMT]) since 2004 and 2009 respectively – were sent letters by caretaker telecoms minister Mohammad Choucair at the end of December 2019 indicating that their rolling short-term contract extensions would not continue, following a decision from the Media & Communications Parliamentary Committee. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that previously, OIH (then OTMT) declined to bid in an open tender for a new management contract for Alfa in December 2015, but due to inadequate bidding interest from prospective new entrants, the Lebanese authorities were forced to cancel the tender, thereby allowing OIH to continue in its role at Alfa under a series of temporary contract extensions.

Lebanon’s new government was formed in late January 2020 following three months of mass protests and political deadlock amid a worsening economic crisis which has seen the local currency lose half its value. The country defaulted on its sovereign debt for the first time in March 2020 and has signed a request for IMF assistance.