New mobile rules would only affect new entrants, official says

Proposed amendments to an Egyptian law requiring mobile telecom operators to give a percentage of their shares to citizens would apply only to new licence operators, a communications ministry official said on Tuesday.

Orascom Telecom Media and Technology said in February it had reached a preliminary accord to sell most of its stake in local mobile operator Mobinil to fellow shareholder France Telecom.

News that Parliament was discussing amendments to the telecom law helped push Mobinil's shares down 5.6 percent on Tuesday, traders said. Some investors have voiced concern over a lack of recent news on progress of the Mobinil deal.

Local landline monopoly Telecom Egypt has a venture with Vodafone that vies with Mobinil for leadership of the mobile phone market. The third-placed operator is the Egyptian affiliate of UAE-based Etisalat.

OTMT shares dropped 4.6 percent on Tuesday and Telecom Egypt slipped 4 percent.

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohamed Salem said draft changes to the telecom law were required because of "the sensitivity of the activity" in which telecom companies are involved, financial daily Al Mal reported.

He said preliminary discussions focused on a proposal to ensure 20 percent of the shares in a local telecom business were owned by Egyptians.

The ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the changes, if they occurred, would not apply to existing businesses.

"The proposed amendments to the telecommunications regulatory law in Parliament are limited to new licenses and won't be applied to existing operators," the official said. "They will be applied to the fourth operator in case it exists."

The official also denied that there would be a minimum level of Egyptian ownership fixed at 20 percent.

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