Beirut lays groundwork for EdL sale

06 December 2002

In the run-up to the partial privatisation of Electricite du Liban (EdL), the government has waived all outstanding power bills and fines owed to the company for the period up to 1996, saying the decision 'took into consideration neglect by the administration' of the company. While the early December decision is expected to deprive the company of about $500 million in revenues, a new regime will be introduced for the collection of the estimated $400 million still owed by EdL customers from 1996-2001. The draft law, which was submitted to parliament on 2 December, enables subscribers to repay debts without interest over a six-year period.

The impending privatisation of EdL has drawn expressions of interest from 19 international groups and individual firms, according to the Higher Council for Privatisation. International companies interested in the sale are understood to include International Powerof the UK, ESB Internationalof Ireland, RWE Powerof Germany, Saur- part of France's Bouygues, Electricite de France, Enelof Italy and Hydro Quebecof Canada (MEED 29:11:02).

In its present form, the privatisation will entail a company purchasing an initial 40 per cent stake in the generation and distribution assets of EdL, with full management control. A second tender is expected to be released for the operations and management of the transmission network, which will remain in government hands. However, the terms of the two tenders may change following consultations between the interested parties and BNP Paribas, the government's adviser on the sale.

Under the provisional schedule for the sale, tenders will be released early next year, due diligence will be completed by the end of April and bids will be submitted in mid-2003, with an award expected later in the summer. The government has been keen to push through the sale, which is expected to raise as much as $1,000 million, to offset rising public debt.

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