CAIRO: Egypt is seeking to arrange a meeting between Orascom Telecom and France Telecom early next month to end the battle over ownership of Mobinil, the communications minister said on Thursday.
Tarek Kamel added he was concerned the dispute could affect the performance of Mobinil if it dragged on. Mobinil controls the biggest share of the Egyptian mobile market.
France Telecom and Orascom Telecom are fighting for control of the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services, known by its brand name Mobinil. The two companies jointly own a holding company that controls Mobinil.
“Having a long legal dispute between both the major players in the company, Orascom Telecom and France Telecom, would really affect negatively the operation of Mobinil and the quality of services for the customer, Kamel told reporters at an American Chamber of Commerce event in Cairo.
The government would respect the decision of an Egyptian court that last week blocked France Telecom’s bid for Mobinil, and would only try to help broker a settlement between the French firm and Orascom Telecom, Kamel added.
“I am trying to bring them together to continue their partnership, he said. “I hope to have this in early February.
The minister also said Egypt could offer a fourth mobile license depending on factors including availability of spectrum and revenues.
The daily Al-Mal newspaper reported earlier the telecoms regulator said it might offer another license if the current three mobile firms did not comply with pricing regulations.
“It’s not only a factor of subscribers, Kamel said. “But if you ask me, ‘is the idea excluded?’ then I definitely tell you a big no.
“There are other factors related to ARPU (average revenue per user), related to revenues, related to market dynamics, related to availability of spectrum, related to content availability …, he said.
The paper said mobile firms had objected to regulations including that their mobile-to-fixed minute rates must not exceed mobile-to-mobile rates between networks. It added the regulator had said it would not rescind the new policies.
The three existing license holders are Mobinil; Vodafone Egypt, a unit of global player Vodafone Plc; and Etisalat Egypt, a unit of Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat.
“I look at the growth of the mobile sector until now, and it’s healthy, Kamel said.