Libya’s two mobile operators, Libyana and Al-Madar Al-Jadeed, are the country’s two most likely candidates for privatisation.

“The telecoms operators are most ready for an initial public offering (IPO), there are rumours it may happen before the end of the year, but it is going to take time,” says Hatim Gheriani, head of global banking & markets at HSBC Libya on the sidelines of MEED’s Libya Focus Day on 16 May.

“It will not happen in earnest until there is an elected government with a mandate to make decisions.”

The General Telecoms and Post Company (GTPC), which controls both operators, announced in May 2010 an intention to float 40 per cent of the two mobile operators to open up the sector to foreign investment. But these plans, which have been in the making for more than five years, did not come to fruition.

“The two companies belong to the government now, in the future there should be some privatisation, which will open the door for other companies,” says Mustafa El-Huni, deputy chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya.

Libya’s telecoms market is an attractive one with potential for growth, but it has been hindered by frequent delays, and more recently, political uncertainty. The communications ministry had prepared to auction a third mobile licence in 2009, which attracted a $1bn bid from Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat), but these plans were also cancelled.

In March 2010, UK-based Vodafone signed a non-equity cooperation deal with Al-Madar Al-Jadeed to offer Vodafone-branded services in the country.

“We announced a partner market agreement and were in the planning phase when events took off. We are reviewing the situation now, there are a number of factors we need to consider and if everything is fine, we’ll look to resurrect the partnership,” says Simon Gordon, a spokesperson for Vodafone.