France Concerned About Lebanon’s Decision to Hang Up on Mobile Firms
France is “concerned” about the Lebanese government’s decision to break its contracts with local cellular firms LibanCell and Cellis, French Ambassador Philippe Lecourtier said Tuesday.
Cellis is 69 percent owned by France Telecom.
“We can only be concerned about this development because France Telecom is almost entirely owned by the French public sector. Therefore, we had no choice but to follow the matter closely,” the diplomat said, quoted by the Daily Star newspaper.
The ambassador, who was speaking during a visit to the Journalists Union, said he had spoken to Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri about the issue.
Two weeks ago, Lebanon's Higher Council for Privatization announced its decision to "amicably" terminate the build-operate-transfer contracts with the nation's two cellular phone companies by the end of the year.
The decision followed two marathon meetings of the council, chaired by Hariri.
"The companies will be notified" on Wednesday, said a statement released by the council, which comprises senior cabinet members, including Finance Minister Fouad Siniora, Economy Minister Basil Fuleihan and Telecommunications Minister Jean-Louis Qordahi.
Ghazi Youssef, the council's secretary general, said the decision "is the first step toward the privatization of Lebanon's entire telecommunications sector. The government will now put out to international tender licenses for cellular services before the end of the year."
Both Cellis and LibanCell will be able to bid, the source said.
Hariri said the services currently provided by Cellis and LibanCell would not be interrupted and that it would take 180 days for the termination to take effect under Article E-22 of the original contracts.
The council's statement said that an "international bank or financial institution" would be contracted to assess the companies' losses and determine the amount of compensation Cellis and LibanCell are entitled to, according to the paper - Albawaba.com
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