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Oman insists on fixed-line telecom monopoly

Oman rules out any immediate end to state monopoly.

Oman ruled out any immediate end to the state's monopoly over providing fixed-line telecom services, and said it was looking for a long-term investor with managerial expertise for its state controlled telecom company. "Although no fixed target date can be given, it can be stated that the fixed line is not yet ready for privatisation as it is today," Economy Minister Ahmad bin Abdul-Nabi Mekki told Reuters in a written response to questions received on Wednesday.

Oman said last month it would sell a stake in Oman Telecommuncations to a long-term investor to improve its competitiveness. "A new investor should provide and contribute up-to-date, applicable technology and new practice, as well as managerial expertise," Mekki said.

Oman is selling the stake because it wants to "enhance the company's ability to compete in the global market, improve quality and competitiveness of service, and involve the private sector in the economic development of the country," Mekki said. Asked when and how much of Omantel the state planned to sell, he said: "The government is in the process of considering various options and will disclose the related terms in due time.".

Oman sold 30 percent of Omantel in 2005, raising 280.8 million rials ($729.5 million) in the country's biggest initial public offering. The firm's rules require the government to hold at least a 51 percent stake, leaving 19 percent for possible sale now.

Emirates Telecommunications Corp and Bahrain Telecommunications have expressed an interest in competing for the stake. Nawras, 70 percent owned by state-owned Qatar Telecommunications , is Omantel's only rival in the country of 2.5 million people. (Reuters)