CAIRO: In yet another fresh round of bids, Telenor, a Norwegian mobile operator, and the National Telecommunications Holding Corporation (NTC), announced yesterday during a press conference that they are partnering up to bid for the third mobile license.
“The partnership with NTC reflects our determination to establish an operation that will benefit from local expertise, side by side with Telenor’s experience from its international portfolio of mobile operations, says Jan Edvard Thygesen, executive vice president and head of Telenor central and Eastern Europe.
As one of the largest mobile operators worldwide, with more than 83 million subscribers and a market value of LE 113 billion, Telenor lends the consortium the technical and financial know-how needed to go shoulder-to-shoulder with the other big guns, such as MTN.
Yet, unlike MTN and the other foreign bidders, Telenor’s local partner, NTC, could act as the clincher when it comes to the final decision.
NTC, established in 1995, is one of the founding fathers of the telecommunications industry in Egypt, established before GSM services and DSL were offered in the global market.
Furthermore, with prominent banks and financial institutions such as the National Bank of Egypt, Commercial International Bank, Misr Direct Investment Fund and Al Ahli for Development & Investment, to name a few, under its shareholders belt, in addition to 14 subsidiaries in telecom, internet services, manufacturing and IT and Financial services, such as EgyNet, the National Processing Company, and Quick Tel, NTC is the strongest local partner of any of all the consortiums.
“When we were conducting our market evaluation, we were looking for a partner who would not only contribute financially, but also what strategic dishes it could bring to the table, says Christopher Laska, Telenor project director, central Europe and Middle East and North Africa. “[In] NTC, we found, to be a very good fit for Telenor. We don’t know about the culture, so not only do they know and understand the culture, but they also have the marketing and distribution knowledge, and our ambitions run into marketing. Together, we found that we are a perfect fit.
“We are two operators going in the same direction, says Hussein El Kholy, chairman of NTC. “Telenor is one of the richest companies, from the richest nations. So we are joining them to win.
While Telenor has only just announced its intentions to bid, the company has been studying the possibility of bidding since last summer.
“Egypt is a very interesting market. We started working with people here one year ago to understand the culture, the market, how people buy their phones, the services they look for. And we are very encouraged by what we have seen and heard, says Thygesen.
Thygesen also added that after meeting with some of the country’s ministers, he believes that the government seems serious about developing the industry.
When asked if the two existing operators, whose presence has been deeply-rooted in the county, can thwart the success of a third operator, Thygesen answered in the negative, stating that a third operator will serve to boost competition and possibly aid existing operators in bettering their services and products.
“When you have three operators, that’s when growth and penetration really, really starts, he says.
As to the rumors circulating that when Telecom Egypt (TE) enters the race, which it is expected to do within a week, the chances of any of the other consortiums winning will be shot down, Telenor and NTC disagree, stating that the procedure seems to have been carried out fairly thus far.
“The reputation of Egypt is very important; this is a law and order country. While TE’s technical bid will pass, so will ours. If they bid more, they will win; if we bid more, we will win. There is no favor for any company. It’s a transparent procedure because no one and nothing is worth risking the reputation of the country for, he tells The Daily Star Egypt. “We have never entered a tender and lost, and so we will win, adds El Kholy.
While El Kholy seems confident that the NTC-Telenor consortium will win, should the NTRA not rule in its favor, Telenor will disentangle itself from Egypt completely.
“We have no plans to enter the Egyptian market should we not win, says Thygesen. ” We are best when we can go into a market and start from scratch, on Greenfield, so that we can introduce the quality and service we want in the country. When we buy into a corporation, it takes too long to change it into the shape we want it.
The Telenor and NTC partnership is the latest consortium to officially announce their entrance into the race so close to the deadline, which is set for April 19, 2006. Etisalat (UAE) also announced that they will lead a consortium consisting of National Bank of Egypt and Egyptian Postal Authority to bid for Egypt’s third mobile license. Telecom Italia is currently studying bidding for Egypt s third mobile phone license, and Qatar’s Qtel is also considering bidding. According to the Egyptian government, 17 companies had bought the prospectus for the license so far.