The government in 2001 appointed Merrill Lynchto advise on the possible strategic sale of a 20-34 per cent stake in fixed-line operator TE, but the offering was later withdrawn due to unfavourable market conditions. An earlier proposal for an initial public offering (IPO) was also shelved. ‘A sale has been on the agenda for some time, and I think it is likely to happen soon, as the company has a lot of potential,’ says a local telecoms executive. ‘Since the exchange rate has come down, you’re unlikely to get the same price as before, but it’s still a good prospect’ (MEED 18:5:01).

Nazif was instrumental in late 2003 in temporarily resolving the political debate over the future of TE, which involved the company buying a 25.5 per cent stake in Vodafone Egypt (VE)from the UK’s Vodafone. At the same time, mobile operators Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (Mobinil)and VE acquired additional GSM spectrum that would have been used by TE to launch a third mobile network. TE has now relinquished its licence, although the government says it reserves the right to reissue it at a later date (MEED 2:1:04).

Nazif was also instrumental in drafting an E-Signature bill which was passed into law in April. In an attempt to cut down bureaucratic procedure in government departments – in particular in the local tax and customs authorities – the bill legitimises the exchange of official documents by electronic media. The legislation also provides protection for online commerce. As part of the earlier reorganisation, TE was established as the main intermediary for customer payments via the internet.