Market will decide Djezzy price: Algeria
Algiers, December 22, 2010
Algeria will pay a market price to nationalise Orascom Telecom's local unit, the country's telecoms minister said on Wednesday, but he declined to give a figure or say when an offer would be made.
The Egyptian firm reluctantly agreed to talks on the nationalisation of Djezzy -- which has been its biggest source of revenue -- after Algeria hit the unit with back taxes, stopped it from moving its money abroad and blocked a sale to South Africa's MTN.
Uncertainty over Djezzy's future has been one of the stumbling blocks in a $6.6 billion deal for Russia's Vimpelcom to buy Orascom Telecom assets, which would create the world's fifth biggest mobile phone operator.
Vimpelcom said this week it wanted to renegotiate the deal after Norwegian shareholder Telenor refused to support the acquisition.
Asked by reporters how much Algeria would pay to nationalise Djezzy, Telecommunications Minister Moussa Benhamadi said: "The price will be determined by the market."
Speaking on the sidelines of a session of the upper house of parliament, he said that Algeria will announce by the end of this month which firm, from the 10 it has shortlisted, it will retain to give a valuation of Djezzy.
But when asked how soon Algeria would be ready to start talks with Orascom Telecom on its acquisition of Djezzy, the minister said: "Nobody knows. The date depends on the consultancy firm which will be selected."
Orascom Telecom has over $3 billion of debt maturing between 2010 and 2013 and analysts say it is therefore eager to resolve the row over Djezzy as quickly as possible. -Reuters