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Tue 1 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Etisalat looking for more time in PTCL deal

Reports from Pakistan suggest the UAE operator wants a further 15 days to pay the remaining amount owed for the incumbent.

Etisalat is rumoured to be looking for a further 15 days to pay the remaining amount owed for its stake in the Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited (PCTL), according to Pakistani newspaper reports.

The Cabinet Committee on Privatisation has reportedly been meeting today with the Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz to discuss whether the UAE operator should be given more time. The Pakistan government has warned that any new payment schedule for Etisalat cannot extend after the end of the country’s financial year in June 2006.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Pakistan’s privatisation minister, has flown to the UAE in an attempt to keep the deal alive through discussions with Etisalat officials. Etisalat’s concerns about the high salaries of PTCL officials are said to be among the issues for debate on Dr Hafeez Sheikh’s agenda.

Etisalat was due to hand over the remaining 75% of the US$2.6 billion on Sunday 28 October, after winning the bid for the 26% stake in PCTL on June 28. However, the payment was not made by the allotted time, and reports have since suggested that the deal is off.

Meanwhile, Singaporean operator SingTel has said it is still interested in investing in Pakistan’s telecoms market. SingTel came third in the bidding for PTCL behind China Mobile and Etisalat, which offered almost twice that of its Singapore rival.

A meeting yesterday between Dr Hafeez Sheikh and prime minister Aziz was said to have discussed whether Pakistan’s largest privatisation deal should be offered to second placed China Mobile.

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