Touch Lebanon to transfer management to government on 30 October

20 Oct 2020

Lebanon’s National News Agency reports that management responsibility for state-owned mobile operator Touch Lebanon – currently managed by Zain Group – will be handed over to the government on 30 October 2020.

In early September, Lebanon’s other state-owned cellco, Alfa (registered as Mobile Interim Company 1 [MIC 1]), became officially managed by the government via the Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT) in accordance with a Cabinet resolution in May. The management transfer of Touch (‘MIC 2’) had been expected to follow later in September but was delayed by a month.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that since June 2004 Touch has been managed on behalf of the government by Kuwait-based Zain (which owns 100% of local management firm Mobile Telecommunications Company Lebanon), while Alfa had been managed by Egyptian-owned Orascom Telecom Lebanon (OTL) since February 2009. Naguib Sawiris’ Orascom Investment Holding (OIH, formerly Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding) is the parent of OTL.

A reformed Lebanese government will aim to launch a new tender for mobile operator management contracts, hoping to attract interest from other major international mobile companies. Zain and OIH/OTL will potentially bid in the tender, although unconfirmed.

The National News Agency writes that caretaker telecoms minister Talal Hawat is in discussions this week with the Media and Telecommunications Committee on the handover of mobile networks to the state. Caretaker Minister of Industry Hussein al-Hajj Hassan was quoted as saying: ‘The next government is the one that will decide on the management process of the sector, but we must benefit from the experience of past years and the mistakes that were made in order to prevent corruption and waste.’