Telecom Egypt could be free to maintain its 45 per cent stake in local mobile operator Vodafone Egypt after the country's government reportedly back-tracked on plans to force a sale when it issues 4G licences.
A telecoms industry source told Reuters that the government has dropped a requirement for Telecom Egypt to sell its holding in the mobile operator as part of its licence conditions. However, a separate industry insider told the news agency that Telecom Egypt is still likely to sell the stake in the long term, when the value of the holding is favourable.
Egypt's government approved plans to issue unified licences covering fixed and mobile services in 2014, but the process has been delayed by arguments between the operators, with interconnection fees levied by Telecom Egypt one of the sticking points.
At the time, Telecom Egypt was told it would have to pay EGP2.5 billion (€254 million/$281 million) for its licence and sell its Vodafone Egypt stake, Reuters explained.
The process of issuing 4G licences now appears to be moving forward. Orange Egypt this week announced in a statement to the Egyptian stock exchange that it has been asked to pay EGP3.54 billion for a 4G licence. The operator added that Egypt's National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) also requested that it pay EGP100 million for a fixed-line licence, and a further EGP1.8 billion to offer international calls.
Telecom Egypt's total price now stands at EGP7.08 billion, which would cover the cost of its 4G licence and also 2G and 3G licences, Reuters reported.
In an earlier report, Reuters stated that the NTRA has already approached all three of the country's mobile operators regarding bidding for a 4G licence, while Daily News Egypt stated that the government aims to launch 4G services in the back-half of 2016.
The government could open the bidding to overseas operators if Orange Egypt, Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat Egypt decline to bid, Gulf News reported.
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