Telecoms sell-off delays creation of a markets regulator in Lebanon

14 September 2008
The creation of an independent capital markets regulator in Lebanon will be delayed until the government of national unity approves the sale of its two state-owned mobile phone companies, according to a senior executive at one of Lebanon’s largest banks.

The Lebanese government has to introduce an independent regulator for the Beirut Stock Exchange under the terms of an agreement that it reached with the Paris III club of countries, which have lent Lebanon money.

The Finance Ministry is committed to selling off the mobile operators prior to establishing the new regulator, but has repeatedly delayed the sale because competing political factions cannot agree a strategy.

“The Finance Ministry has other priorities,” says Nassib Ghobril, head of economic research and analysis at Beirut-based Byblos bank. “There are [political] questions related to the privatisation of the mobile phone licences [and] I do not see it happening soon.”

The Telecommunications Ministry told MEED in July that the privatisation of the two state-owned operators could be delayed until November 2009 because the government has relatively little time to act before the parliamentary elections expected in May next year (MEED 18:7:08).

The winners of the networks will have to float 25-40 per cent of the newly privatised telecoms companies on the Beirut Stock Exchange. The Telecommunications Ministry will then give a third licence to state-owned fixed-line operator Ogero, which will be rebranded as Liban Telecom.

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