Lebanon to auction new cellphone licences

Lebanon plans to auction two new cellphone licences in a move that will pit former cellular operators Cellis and Libancell against one another. The auction is set to take place before the end of August.

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By  Richard Brown Published  June 11, 2002

Last June, the Lebanese government revoked the contracts of the cellular firms three years before they were due to expire in an apparent bid to spur the issuing of licences.

But the attempt was stymied when the government opposed a US$2.7 billion offer from both firms to buy new licences, claiming the operators had exceeded their allocated number of subscribers.

The government requested $600 million from Cellis and Libancell for allegedly violating their contracts. The companies denied the charge and the case was referred to international arbitrators.

Consultants KPMG and financial services firm HSBC were hired to calculate the compensation the government owes Cellis, a subsidiary of France Télécom, and Libancell, in which Sonera holds a stake, for the premature cancellation of their contracts.

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