‘Orascom will commence the arbitration to enforce its contractual right to acquire Wataniya’s 50 per cent stake in Orascom’s mobile operation in Tunisia, Tunisiana,’ said the OT statement. ‘Orascom has been unable to reach an amicable resolution of its claim that Wataniya has materially breached the agreement.

‘Accordingly, Orascom will file a request for arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce [ICC] International Court of Arbitration [in Paris] to enforce its acquisition right.’

‘We are surprised by this as we have not been notified by either the court or Orascom,’ Ahmad Haleem, chief executive officer of Dubai-based Wataniya International, told MEED on 7 May. ‘However, we think the case is without merit and that they [Orascom] will not be successful.’

An Orascom spokesman also declined to expand further on the reasons behind the dispute. ‘Disclosure rules meant we had to announce our intentions,’ he told MEED on 7 May.

Orascom acquired the GSM licence in Tunisia in 2002, and subsequently created the joint venture with Wataniya through a sale of a 50 per cent stake. In the fixed line sector, Dubai Technology & Media Free Zone Authority (Tecom) will acquire a 35 per cent stake in Tunisie Telecom (see p33) www.meed.com/telecomsit