Jordan Telecom set to play regional role

19 July 2002

The privatisation of Jordan Telecomwas high on the agenda at the Convergence conference held by the Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry in Amman on 17 July. The government is planning to relinquish its 51 per cent majority stake in the mobile, fixed line and internet operator, with more shares passing to its existing strategic foreign partner, France Telecom, and 10-15 per cent to be floated through an initial public offering (IPO).

France Telecom, which may buy 2-3 per cent of additional shares via the IPO, will then become the majority shareholder, gaining management control of the company that will then report its financial results to Paris. 'Our strategy will be to develop our business in the region through Jordan Telecom using Jordan as our hub,' says Laurent Mialet, executive vice-president international at France Telecom. 'Arab countries are our main target in the developing world.'

The government is expected to retain a 36 per cent stake in the company, which also owns the country's second mobile operator, MobileCom, and a number of internet service providers. The other major institutional investor in the firm at present is Arab Bank, with a 9 per cent stake.

Jordan's emerging role as a centre for IT and telecoms in the Middle East was a point raised in the conference by the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Khalil Aburizik, regional officer for the ITU, said that although not one Arab country ranks in the top 50 in terms of telecoms development, Jordan is among the most advanced with an independent regulator that was first established in 1994. 'Open competition, private investment and regulation are the key issues that the region must address,' Aburizik told MEED. 'For example Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen have no regulation in place whatsoever.'

The event also highlighted the strides being made in Jordan with e-government. The part-US-financed initiative was established in 2000 when eight project areas were pinpointed across G2G (government-to-government); G2B (government-to-business); and G2C (government-to-consumer) services. The system, which is being developed with the help of EDSof the US, will eventually create a point of access for Jordanians to deal with key services such as social security, income tax and vehicle licensing. The government is also close to issuing an e-transactions law that will govern e-signature for web-based business and e-commerce. The law, based on UN-CITRAL regulations, will enable banks looking at Jordan as a regional call centre base to manage internet banking.

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