19 international groups and firms from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. ‘There has been a strong turnout,’ says Ghazi Youssef, head of the Higher Council for Privatisation. ‘Prequalification will start early next year and the full process will be launched in February or March. An award should be made by the beginning of the third quarter.’

Companies from the UAE, Germany, France, the UK, South Africa, Hong Kong and South Korea are understood to have submitted expressions of interest by 22 November for the planned privatisation, which will entail the sale of an initial 40 per cent stake of the production and generation assets of Electricite du Liban (EdL). The successful bidder will also assume full management control. The process will also involve the appointment of an operator to manage the transmission network, which will remain in state ownership. The government has said it expects to make up to $1,000 million from the sale, which will be used to offset rising public debt. BNP Paribas is advising the government on the sale (MEED 1:11:02).

Privatisation of state assets forms the backbone of Lebanon’s reform programme, which received an additional boost in mid-November after countries and international institutions pledged some $4,000 million in concessionary loans to the government at the Paris II donors conference (see Economy).