Lebanon again postpones telecom privatisation

BEIRUT - The Lebanese cabinet voted after a marathon session early Saturday to postpone again the planned privatisation of the country's mobile telephone network, an official said.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 1 Feb 2004, 12:24 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 11:49 AM

It also decided to ask for new tenders on plans to privatise management of two electricity power plants after receiving only one bid, from an unnamed Irish company. On May 15, 2003, seven Arab and European companies, including Orange, France Telecom, Greece's OTE and a Kuwaiti company, pre-qualified for bidding on the telecoms deal.

But when the tender deadline closed three weeks ago, only bids from LibanCell, indirectly linked to Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri, and Investcom, part of the Mikati Group with ties to Public Works Minister Nagib Mikati, remained standing.

In a seven-hour meeting late Friday, presided over by President Emile Lahoud, the cabinet decided to try again. Telecommunications Minister Jean-Louis Kordahi was tasked with starting the process anew.

The delay, which has seriously compromised a government commitment to balance its budget, dates back to June 2001. It was then that the government cancelled the licences under which LibanCell and Cellis had operated since 1994 in order to hold a public tender on re-awarding the licences.

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