Out-of-court settlement sought in Lebanese cellular dispute
The Lebanese government reached an agreement with the country’s two cellular operators, Cellis and Libancell, to put their ongoing legal dispute on freeze until March, in an attempt to allow for an out-of-court settlement, Lebanese Telecommunications Minister Jean-Louis Qardahi told a press conference, January 3.
The minister said that it has been agreed that the two companies will continue to operate their cellular networks for another three months, and added that in April 2002 a tender for the sale of two new 20-year GSM licenses will be issued. In mid-December, the Daily Star reported that the government may allow Cellis and LibanCell to operate until their contracts expire in 2004, if it does not receive bids lucrative enough for the new licenses.
A row broke between the Lebanese government and the two cellular operators Cellis—65 percent owned by France Telecom's—and LibanCell—14 percent owned by Finland’s Sonera—following the government’s decision in mid-June to cancel the 10-year Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contracts signed with the two in 1994. The government said it would compensate the private firms for the termination of their contacts three years ahead of time.
The cellular companies offered the government $1.35 billion each to convert their existing contracts into formal 20-year licenses, but were turned down. Both companies may still submit biddings for the new GSM licenses. The government claimed the original contracts had a limit of 250,000 subscribers per operator, and accused the firms of operating a total of 800,000 lines. The companies were thus presented with the demand to pay $300 million each to increase their subscriber limit. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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