Kuwait mobile sale "will cost the public millions"

Kuwait's parliament has voted to hold an urgent debate on the cut-price sale of MTC after a group of MPs claimed it would benefit a few individuals while losing the country over $150 million.

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By  Alex Marklew Published  March 28, 2001

The part-privatisation of Kuwait’s largest mobile phone operator is in jeopardy after the country’s parliament voted to hold an urgent debate on the issue, amid allegations that the sale will benefit a few individuals at the expense of the public.

36 members of parliament made the move after it was announced that the sale of half the state’s 49.2% share in Mobiles Telecommunications Co at a discounted price would deprive the public purse of US $162 million.

The controversial plan would allow a buyer to snap up 113 million shares in MTC for 25% less than they are actually worth.

The MPs who requested an investigation said that the arrangement “is surrounded by many questions,” hinting that it could lead to personal gain for a handful of people while losing the country millions of dollars.

Shares in MTC, the largest of Kuwait’s two mobile operators, slipped 5.2% last week when the initial announcement of the cut-price sale was made.

The Kuwait Investment Authority launched a privatisation programme in 1994 to sell off local companies, making $3 billion in the process.

The plan was scrapped three years ago amid fears of under-valuing companies when the market started to decline.

The KIA has tried to resurrect the programme, but the opposition MPs said that the previous system cost the public millions, and that to re-launch the same plan would be disastrous for Kuwait as a whole.

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