The Moroccan government will auction the country’s second fixed line concession in the first quarter of 2004, following more than two years of delay. According to reports from Reuters, the country’s telecoms regulator, the Agence Nationale de Réglementation des Télécommunications (ANRT), will relaunch the tender before March 2004 and is said to be considering the option of bundling a mobile operating licence into the package in a bid to pique the interest of the foreign investment community. When the licence was first tabled for auction in 2000 twelve companies initially expressed an interest, namely Médi Télécom, l’ONA, Alcatel Maroc, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Upline Securities, l’ONCF, EBE (Group Axess One), Telecom Egypt Data, Cogetel, Inbisat, Magfin and Atlas Group.
Maroc Telecom currently holds a monopoly over the provision of fixed line services in Morocco. Created in 1997 following the passage of the 1996 Act, the operator is 35%-owned by French conglomerate Vivendi Universal which paid MAD23billion (USD2.3billion) for the stake in 2000, with the state retaining 65%. Since the arrival of competition in the mobile sector in 2000 when Médi Télécom, a subsidiary of Portugal Telecom and Telefónica of Spain, was awarded the country’s second GSM-900 licence, Maroc Telecom has seen its fixed line subscriber base gradually eroded. By the end of June 2003 it claimed just 1.1 million fixed line customers, down from 1.19 million at the end of 2001, despite efforts to improve the appeal of its services by lowering tariffs.