CAIRO: Egyptian mobile group Orascom Telecom said on Tuesday the Algerian government had agreed to start talks for the sale of Orascom’s Algerian unit Djezzy, its main cash earner.
"We have received response they are willing to start negotiations. At this point, we are waiting for them to call us for the talks," Orascom spokeswoman Manal Abdel Hamid said, confirming comments carried in the daily newspaper Al-Mal.
"They are going to appoint their representatives who will negotiate with our company representatives."
Orascom is in a long-running dispute with the Algerian government over back tax claims and its attempts to sell Djezzy,
South Africa’s MTN in April said it was in talks to buy Orascom assets, a deal that could have made MTN the world’s third-biggest mobile operator if all of Orascom’s assets were included.
The Algerian government stymied the deal in April when it said it would block any agreement to sell Djezzy to MTN, claiming it had a right to bid on the unit first.
Analysts say Djezzy would be the crown jewel in any broader deal, and would give MTN a foothold in North Africa.
Orascom said on Thursday it would enter talks to sell Djezzy to Algeria, apparently bowing after weeks of Algerian pressure.