The Himalayan News Service reports that Nepal’s cabinet of ministers has agreed in principle to allow state-owned PTO Nepal Telecom (NT) to bring in a strategic partner. The government has been looking to provide some external stimulus to drive the state-run company forward since 2010, but to date its efforts have been hindered by bureaucratic feet dragging. The paper quotes an unnamed official at the ministry of finance as saying that based on current experience it might take several years to find a suitable partner. ‘If this delay continues‚ NT might also turn into another white elephant like other public enterprises in the country,’ he said.
A committee comprising two leading members of the finance ministry and four of NT’s top brass has been assembled to prepare the groundwork for a plan to divest a 30% stake in the fixed and mobile operator. However, despite coming together a year ago, the committee is yet to put anything concrete in place. ‘We are currently preparing terms of reference based on which expression of interest would be sought from international consultants to conduct special and due diligence audits of the telco. Once these audits are complete‚ detailed information on assets and liabilities of the company will be obtained‚’ the unnamed finance ministry official – a committee member themself – is quoted as saying. NT is over 90% owned by the government and one of the few state-backed enterprises actually reporting profits. It booked net income of NPR11.31 billion (USD115.6 million) in its fiscal year ended mid-July 2013.