The level of interest in the acquisition of a 35 per cent share in state-owned fixed line operator Tunisie Telecomhas surpassed expectations, with 14 companies submitting expressions of interest (EoIs) by the 20 September deadline (MEED 9:9:05).

Those who submitted EoIs are understood to include: France Telecom, Bouygues and Vivendi Universal, all of France; Telecom Italia; Amsterdam-based CelTel; Saudi Oger; Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat); South Africa’s MTN; Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco); Beirut-based Investcom; and Portugal Telecomand Spain’s Telefonica. Telefonica and Portugal Telecom announced on 27 September that they will be making a joint bid for the contract, and Bouygues is also expected to join forces with another operator.

The shortlist was originally expected to be made public on 28 September, but Tunis has requested further information on the technical expertise of some of the companies and is now likely to publish the list in early October.

‘The market has been surprised by the high level of interest in the operator,’ says one analyst. ‘But everything is right for this deal at the moment. The telcos are cash-rich again, the sector is doing well, the Tunisian market is well perceived, appetite is high and there are not many opportunities left for such acquisitions.’