Eight other companies were shortlisted to bid for the licence. However five – France’s Orange, MTCof Kuwait, Turkcell, DeutscheTelecomand MarocTelecom– were eliminated as their bids did not conform to ARPT specifications. Of the remaining three companies, Spain’s Telefonica was the second highest bidder with an offer of $409 million, while MTNof South Africa came third with a bid of $375 million.

‘We are very happy to win the third Algerian GSM licence,’ Wataniya chief executive David Murray told MEED on 3 December. ‘We see enormous growth potential in a country of 32 million people, especially as it is next door to our existing investment in Tunisianain Tunisia.’ Wataniya has a 50 per cent stake in Tunisiana, the second Tunisian GSM licence holder, which has about 100,000 subscribers.

Under the terms of the prequalification notice, only companies with at least three years of experience in mobile telephony, 1 million subscribers and market capitalisation of $2,000 million were eligible. A consortium headed by Rothschild (Paris),Coudert Brothersand technical consultant ICEAwas the adviser to the government.

After the award of this third licence, there will be a four-year exclusivity period for the three operators (MEED 14:11:03).

Algeria already has two GSM providers: state-owned AlgerieTelecom, which has about 150,000 mobile subscribers, and private operator OrascomTelecomAlgerie( OTA), which has gained some 1 million subscribers since starting operations in February 2002. OTA is the subsidiary of Egypt’s OrascomTelecom, which purchased the first private Algerian GSM licence in July 2001 for $737 million.