Telecom Egypt's chairman has said he would seek a strategic partnership with an international mobile telephone operator via a mid-year tender to prepare the company to re-enter the mobile business next year.
“We need the experience and expertise of an international operator so that we can compete with the likes of France Telecom and Vodafone,” Akil Beshir told Reuters. “The criterion we are considering at the moment for the company is that it must be a major operator with operations in more than one country. It must be willing to invest… and have a commitment to helping develop the operation,” Beshir said.
France Telecom has a stake in one of Egypt's operators, MobiNil, and Vodafone in the other, Click GSM. The local firms' exclusivity agreements expire at the end of 2002. “Telecom Egypt has already got a licence, so it will be able to operate at the end of 2002, once exclusivity expires,” Beshir said.
But although Telecom Egypt, which sold its mobile phone operation to MobiNil in 1997, says it retains an operating licence, its rivals may cry foul if it tries to get back into the high-growth business without paying for a new licence.
Beshir said Telecom Egypt would keep a controlling share in its planned mobile arm, but details of the tender and the size of the stake to be sold to a foreign partner have not been set.
This article was first published by Reuters on 26 February 2001.