Egypt’s Orascom Telecom says Algeria ready to discuss sale of its Djezzy subsidiary

By Tarek El-tablawy, AP
Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Orascom: Algeria ready to discuss Djezzy sale

CAIRO — Egyptian mobile phone giant Orascom Telecom said Tuesday the Algerian government was ready to begin negotiating a possible purchase of Orascom’s subsidiary in the North African nation.

The news signaled there was little chance that Djezzy, which generated the most revenue for Orascom last year, would be part of a potential deal between the Egyptian firm and South Africa’s MTN Group.

MTN has been in talks with Orascom to buy its Africa operations, and Djezzy is seen as the crown jewel of the potential deal which was initially valued at about $10 billion.

In an e-mailed statement, Orascom said the “Algerian government expressed to Orascom Telecom their readiness to start talks for the sale” of Djezzy.

“They are going to appoint their representatives who will engage in these talks,” the statement said.

Algeria had objected and vowed to block the sale when news first surfaced in late April about talks between Orascom and MTN — a move viewed by many analysts as a continuation of the dispute between Orascom and Algeria over some $600 million in back-taxes the North African nation maintains is owed by Djezzy.

That dispute, in turn, had been seen as fallout from a World Cup qualifier match between Algeria and Egypt that turned violent and led FIFA earlier this month to ban Egypt from playing in Cairo for its next two World Cup qualifiers.

In comments published Sunday by an Egyptian financial daily, Orascom’s chairman Naguib Sawiris said he expected talks with MTN — Africa’s largest mobile phone provider — would be wrapped up within a week.

Orascom’s stock was down 1.9 percent to 6.14 Egyptian pounds by 3 p.m. local time (1300 GMT) Tuesday.

Aside from Egypt and Algeria, Orascom also operates in Tunisia, the Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Namibia, Pakistan and North Korea.

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