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Sun 1 Apr 2007 05:00 PM

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Orascom and MTNL lose their way in Saudi licence bid

Saudi Arabia's Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has short-listed seven bidders for the next stage of the kingdom's process to award a third GSM licence.

Saudi Arabia's Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has short-listed seven bidders for the next stage of the kingdom's process to award a third GSM licence. Significantly, Egyptian telecoms powerhouse Orascom Telecom and India's MTNL are the bidders to have been excluded from further participation in the process, on the grounds that their technical bids did not reach the regulator's minimum criteria.

The remain bid consortia are: MTC and Partners consortium; headed by MTC Group of Kuwait; Samawat consortium; Oger Telecom consortium, headed by the Dubai-based telecoms investments of the Hariri family; Kingdom Turkcell consortium, headed by Saudi billionaires Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding; Tawasul consortium (Digicel), fronted by Irish businessman Denis O'Brien; MTN Saudi Arabia consortium, headed by the South African mobile operator MTN Group; and a consortium consisting of Abdullah Abdulazziz Al-Rajihi and Reliance Communications of India.

At the time of going to press, financial bids were scheduled to be opened in Riyadh the night of March 24, 2007 at the CITC headquarters, to be evaluated with final results subsequently being submitted to the regulator's board of directors and ultimately to the Council of Ministers, for ratification.

Consensus estimates place the value of the licence in excess of US$6 billion, more than twice Mobily's winning bid.

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