The national unity government, which was formed on 11 July, is expected to decide within days on whether to start the process to auction the two state-owned networks, MIC1 and MIC2, said Kamal Shehadi, the chairman and chief executive officer of the TRA in a statement on 25 September.

The much-delayed privatisation process needs to start soon if it is to happen before Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, which are due in May 2009.

If the national unity government cannot start the process soon, the privatisation of both companies will be delayed until after the elections.

In July, Gilbert Najjar, the Telecommunications Ministry civil servant in charge of the sale, told MEED that he was negotiating to extend the management contracts for both networks for another year, meaning they could remain in state hands until November 2009 (MEED 17:7:08).

MIC1 and MIC2 are managed by MTC Touch, a subsidiary of the Kuwaiti mobile phone company Zain, and by Alfa, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom and Saudi Arabia’s Fal Holdings.