Etisalat hits back in row over Pakistan telco deal
Chairman insists Etisalat "applies the highest standards of transparency" in response to Pakistani government minister's call for inquiry in the PTCL deal
The dispute between Etisalat and the government of Pakistan over the UAE telco's share in the country's incumbent telecom provider PTCL intensified yesterday, with the chairman of Etisalat responding to calls from a Pakistani government minister for an inquiry into the deal.
Etisalat chairman Mohammad Omran insisted that Etisalat "applies the highest standards of transparency in conducting its business operations", and that its investment in PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited) "came in the wake of a welcome invitation and encouragement by the government of Pakistan to participate in the privatisation process".
Omran's statement was a direct response to Pakistan's minister of privatisation, senator Waqar Ahmed Khan, who called for an inquiry into the the UAE operator's acquisition of a 26% stake in PTCL.
Last week, Khan said "the deal was full of flaws and legal advisers had asked the then government to scrap it, otherwise it would be considered contrary to rules".
Having signed a deal to purchase a 26% stake in PTCL for $2.6 billion back in 2006, Etisalat has so far paid $1.4 billion, due to complications regarding the transfer of 3,000 real estate units.
Omran said that under the terms of the deal, Etisalat is entitled to withhold payments until the property titles are transferred to PTCL.
"Our aim is to ensure that PTCL receives clean title to and possession of all properties. We are confident that when the privatisation commission fulfils this obligation, Etisalat will immediately release the instalments," he said.
In a statement released over the weekend, Omran said that Etisalat's legal team had confirmed "in no ambiguous terms" that the acquisition is legally valid.
He pointed out that the commercial agreements with the government of Pakistan call for the transfer of the properties to PTCL and not to Etisalat, and that when the properties are transferred to PTCL, the government of Pakistan, with a 62% stake in PTCL, will be the single largest beneficiary.