Etisalat dispute over PTCL deal continues
Etisalat likely to continue withholding payments to Pakistani authorities for PTCL stake amid uncertainty over transfer of key assets to the UAE incumbent.
A dispute between Etisalat and the Pakistani government over the UAE operator's acquisition of a 26% stake in Pakistan Telecom (PTCL) looks set to continue. Etisalat is likely to withhold its fifth payment in a row until a dispute over the transfer of key assets to the operator is resolved, according to a report from UAE daily, Gulf News.
Despite signing a deal to purchase a 26% stake in PTCL for $2.6 billion back in 2006, Etisalat has so far paid only $1.4 billion, apparently owing to complications regarding the transfer of 3,000 real estate units.
While reports earlier this year suggested that Etisalat intended to make a payment of $800 million to Pakistani authorities by the end of March, in relation to the deal, it now appears that the payments will be delayed further.
"Until now, the government [of Pakistan] has not released a list of properties to be converted [to PTCL ownership]. When the list is released, the money will be paid," Mohammad Omran, chairman, Etisalat, told Gulf News.
Pakistan's Ministry of Privatisation confirmed that Etisalat's next payment was due on March 31, and that of the 311 properties in question, 118 were already in the possession of PTCL and 17 properties were "under some litigation", the Gulf News report added, quoting an emailed response from the Pakistani ministry.
PTCL is currently Pakistan's third-largest mobile operator behind Mobilink, which is backed by Egypt's Orascom, and number-two player Telenor Pakistan, a subsidiary of Norway's Telenor Group.
Etisalat is keen to make further inroads in Pakistan's mobile and broadband sector, where it faces increasing competition from other Middle East players including Qtel, which owns broadband player Wi-Tribe, and Abu Dhabi Group-backed mobile player Warid.