In 1998, money raised from the sale of two cement factories was enough for the government to cover its foreign exchange needs for the year. In total, the government sold 20 state-owned enterprises in 1998.
Germany’s Siemens Ag and India’s KEC International won two separate contracts to install a 225-kV grid link between Tunisia and Libya. The connection is planned to be completed by the first quarter of 2001, and it will complete a larger Mediterranean grid linking Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Spain and Italy.
A Swedish consulting firm was hired by the government to propose a restructuring plan for the railway sector and the refocusing of the activities of the state-owned rail company SNCFT.
The Tunis Stock exchange is a 34-share capitalization-weighted index. Trade on the exchange is fully electronic and conducted among authorized brokerage houses while remaining under the supervision of the state-run Financial Market Council.
The Tunis Stock Exchange was established in 1969. Tunisian companies on the stock exchange are required to publish semi-annual corporate reports audited by a certified public accountant. Due to a decree issued in 1995, it is easier today for foreigners to purchase shares in Tunisian companies. Foreigners can buy up to 10 percent of a company’s shares on the Tunis Stock Exchange and up to 30 percent of a private company without central bank approval.
The Tunisian stock exchange is also playing a role in the country's search for development capital, though up until now foreign interest has been relatively low, largely because of small trading volumes and related fears of insider manipulation.
In June 1998, the government negotiated a build-own-operate contract for a 470 MW combined cycle electrical power plant. The country's power demand is expected to grow at 7 percent a year. The state electricity and gas utility is planing to add 100-300 MW every two years beginning in 2001.
The country is also palling build-operate-transfer contracts to build a series of major highways. The first will be 60-kilometer Tunis-Bizerte link. The Tunis-Bousalem will be 140 kilometers and the M'saken-Gabes, 250 kilometers.
Finally, the country is planning to spend $2 billion to $3 billion during the next 5 to 10 years on environmental programs, such as landfill construction and wastewater treatment.
Bouygues has won construction projects for the Tunis City of Science, a science and technology institute, and various housing projects throughout Tunis. The company also won a contract to complete the proposed Tunis headquarters of the Arab League, unfinished since the league moved back to Cairo, which is now slated to become the Tunisian broadcasting center.
The first major fast food chain to open a store came to Tunis in 1994. But in 1996, the government opposed franchise agreements with foreign companies and blocked projects underway. There is growing interest in franchising and many Tunisian entrepreneurs are seeking contacts with foreign franchisers.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)