Business recap: IFC and Ministry of Petroleum study mining sector reform

Ahmed A. Namatalla
5 Min Read

CAIRO: The Ministry of Petroleum (MOP) signed a technical assistance agreement with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to reform the country s mining laws in favor of investors, IFC announced Wednesday.

Under the agreement, IFC s Technical Assistance Office for the Middle East and North Africa will conduct a joint review of the country s 50-plus year old mining laws and recommend reforms to regulations and taxation to draw more foreign investment to the sector, an IFC statement said. IFC will provide $215,000 (LE 1.3 million) to finance the research.

Egypt s mining sector has outstanding potential, IFC Senior Regional Manager Gulrez Hoda said. An improved policy framework, which clearly defines procedures for private investors, will help attract new investments and improve the country s economy.

Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy, signing on behalf of the government, said reforms aimed at liberalizing the sector have the potential to energize its gold mining industry to bring Egypt to the forefront of exporting African countries.

As of press time, MOP had not announced a timetable for implementing the agreement. IFC is the financial arm of the World Bank Group. The organization is now working on several joint projects with the government to ease restrictions on private sector operations and increase the inflow of foreign direct investment.

Mobinil files complaint with MCIT to resolve EDGE dispute

CAIRO: According to Al Alam Al Youm, Mobinil Chairman Naguib Sawiris filed a complaint with the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology (MCIT) last week, asking for the personal interference of Minister Tarek Kamel to resolve the dispute over the company s use of Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE) technology.

The technology offers high data transfer rates which the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) says require special licensing. Mobinil argues EDGE services are regarded throughout other markets as 2nd Generation and do not reach the speed of 3rd Generation technologies.

Mobinil had been negotiating with the NTRA over lowering the 3G acquisition fee of LE 3.34 billion but no agreement has been reached despite rumors the latter agreed to grant the company the license for half price. NTRA Chairman Amr Badawy denied Tuesday such a deal had been reached and said negotiations were still ongoing with the company.

On Monday, MCIT granted Vodafone Egypt a 15 year license to set up and operate a 3G network for the full fee amount plus 2.4 percent of revenues. Vodafone said it plans to begin offering its 3G services following their launch by Etisalat Misr.

Edge is not a 3G technology, it s a 2.75G technology, EFG Hermes Telecom Analyst Wael Ziada told The Daily Star Egypt. No where else in the world has an operator offering EDGE had to acquire a special license. But NTRA is looking at the case from a product standpoint, not a technology standpoint, which is what matters to the customer at the end.

Telecom Egypt eyes regional expansion to counter sector liberalization effects

CAIRO: Telecom Egypt (TE) Chairman Okail Bashir said Wednesday his company is looking for more expansion opportunities regionally to make up for the expected loss of revenue as a result of losing its monopoly on international calling operations.

The 80 percent government-owned company is already part of a consortium establishing Algeria s second fixed line network and is competing to win the rights to Saudi Arabia s second fixed line operation.

To counter the effects of the expected loss of its monopoly on providing international calling services, TE has recently undertaken several measures including increasing its stake in Vodafone Egypt to 49 percent via a stock market buyout in October and offering discounts ranging from 6 to 12 percent on international bills from LE 3,000 to LE 6,000.

The NTRA announced in December two international calling operators licenses will be offered by the end of Q1 2007. International calling has, in recent years, accounted for more than 25 percent of TE s annual revenues. The company collected LE 2.3 billion in international calling revenues, or 27 percent of total revenues of LE 8.5 billion in 2005.

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