Oman’s Finance Ministry is not disclosing the names of the eight shortlisted companies, but says they include Middle Eastern, European and Asian operators.

Darwish Ismail al-Bulushi, secretary general of the Finance Ministry, says: “The quality and number of expressions of interest received were very strong. The level of interest is testament to the macro-economic strength of Oman and the opportunity of Omantel itself.”

Saudi Telecom had previously said that it wanted to bid for the stake in Omantel.

Omantel has some 1.5 million mobile phone customers, compared with some 1.1 million at its only rival Nawras.

Nawras is 56 per cent-owned by Qtel, which itself is owned by the Qatari government.