Saudi Telecom, Qtel make Syria licence shortlist

Deputy telecommunications minister says other firms have withdrawn over contractual issues
Saudi Telecom, Qtel make Syria licence shortlist
(AFP/Getty Images)
By Bloomberg
Sun 03 Apr 2011 07:45 PM

Saudi Telecom and Qatar Telecom (Qtel) have reached the final phase of Syria’s auction for a third mobile licence, deputy telecommunications minister Mohammad Al-Jalali said on Sunday.

Etisalat, Turkcell, Turkey’s biggest mobile-phone operator, and France Telecom have pulled out of the race, he said in a interview from Damascus.

The three companies withdrew because they did not agree with some contractual issues, including the 25 percent share in revenue of the Syrian state and its monopoly over infrastructure for seven years, according to a telecommunications ministry statement.

They also objected to their requirements for certain frequencies not being available, it said.

“We are heading on with our plans and schedule without any changes for the time being,” Jalali said. “We started today the evaluation of the two offers and might complete the process before the end of this week.”

Bidders will be notified about the evaluation results on April 14 and the auction will be held on April 27, he said. The auction will open with $128 million, he said.

Qtel chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al Thani said March 27 that unrest in Syria hadn’t changed the company’s interest in the country’s third mobile licence.

Syria is the latest Middle Eastern country to be hit by uprisings that ousted longtime rulers in Egypt and Tunisia, and sparked armed conflict in Libya.

Syria is encouraging private and foreign investment in its state-dominated economy to provide long-term financing for development and economic reforms.

To help expand the mobile market, the government last year approved an auction for a third licence and decided to change the contracts of the two current operators, Syriatel and MTN Group’s MTN Syria unit, to build-operate-transfer licence protocols.

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