According to a report by TMT Finance, a number of major international telecoms players have expressed an interest in landing one of two available contracts for the management of state-owned Libyan mobile operators Libyana and Almadar Aljaded (Al Madar Telecomm Company). The tender, which is due to expire on 3 February, has so far piqued the interest of France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange), Etisalat of the UAE, Digicel Group of Jamaica, the UK’s Vodafone Group, Vimpelcom of Russia, Qtel of Qatar and India’s Bharti Airtel.
According to an anonymous source with knowledge of the tender process, FT-Orange’s Sofrecom unit – a consultancy firm which claims to have worked with ‘over 200 major players in over 100 countries’ – is the clear front-runner, and has pre-existing ties to Libyana. The source added: ‘Vodafone is also a likely contender, having recently secured an agreement with Al Madar. It is certainly an interesting market, so it is not surprising that it is attracting a fair bit of attention’. However, the source cast doubts over the imminent deadline, saying: ‘I am not convinced that the process will complete [on time] as there has been some negative speculation about the intentions of certain parts of the government’.
Speculation is also rife that Tripoli is planning to re-introduce plans to auction off a third mobile licence. In July 2010 it was confirmed that Etisalat and Turkcell of Turkey had both been overlooked for a new LYD1 billion (USD825 million) concession. The Gaddafi regime branded bids by the international duo ‘unsuitable’, without offering any further explanation.