Orascom Telecom hits snag in Syria

19 April 2002

Orascom Telecom (OT)of Egypt has run into difficulties in its GSM project in Syria as a result of a dispute with its local partner over management prerogatives.

OT said on 11 April that it has lodged an appeal against a civil court decision to appoint two official receivers for Syriatel, the local GSM operator in which OT has a 25 per cent stake and is managing partner. Two local judges have been appointed to take charge of the company, and the first appeal hearing will take place on 24 April.

OT says it is basing its appeal on an ongoing dispute resulting from attempts by its Syrian partner to assume management control of the company. 'The main problem is that the partner attempted to sign solely on all bank accounts, which is against the agreement signed between us and the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment,' says an OT official. 'Everything was going very well until about four months ago, and we were very surprised as we had never faced similar problems before.'

OT has not disclosed the name of the Syrian partner. Damascus sources say the Syrian investors in the country's two GSM projects are well connected businessmen who do not normally publish details of their activities.

In early 2001, OT was awarded one of two contracts to build GSM networks in Syria. The other network, Spacetel, is operated by Lebanon's Investcom. The two services started up in April 2001 (MEED 27:4:01). According to the most recent financial data issued by OT, Syriatel had 76,000 subscribers at the end of September 2001.

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