Newspaper reports quoting government officials disclosed that a committee has been formed to negotiate with cellular network operators, Cellis and LibanCell, to find a solution to the dispute over alleged non-payment of back-taxes by the companies.
The previous government claimed that the two companies owed the State $300 million each for both separately exceeding a 250,000-line limit set by their BOT contracts. The matter was referred to an international arbitration committee in Paris by Cellis and LibanCell.
The companies had offered $1.35 billion each to convert their contracts into 20-year licenses but were rebuffed by then Telecoms Minister Issam Naaman. That offer has since been withdrawn as the value of telecom stocks internationally took a knock.
Resolving the dispute with the cellular operators will allow the Lebanese government to proceed to discuss terms with the companies for full licenses, which should provide much needed revenue. Telecom sector insiders have speculated that the government will accept $150 million from each company in settlement of its back-tax demands.
Telecoms Ministry Public Relations Advisor Nabil Khalifeh was reported in the media as saying that Telecoms Minister Jean-Louis Qordahi intends to implement a comprehensive four-part plan for the sector, based on a new and modern telecoms law and the establishment of a regulatory watchdog.
The plan also includes transferring the fixed line network to a new state-owned entity called LibanTelecom, which will also operate a third cellular network, as well as going ahead with mobile
phone licensing. — (Banque du Liban et d'Outre-Mer Sal )
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