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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Pakistan delays telecoms sell-off
Pakistani stock broker on the phone
Pakistan's phone network will stay under state control
Pakistan has been forced to delay the sale of a 26% stake in the state-owned Pakistan Telecommunication (PTCL) due to the depressed world telecoms sector.

The sale would have given management of the company, which is 88% state-owned, to investors by the end of this year.

"The global telecommunications industry has been in crisis for the last eighteen months," the Privatisation Commission said in a statement.

"This has adversely affected the appetite of telecoms companies for large emerging-market transactions."

But Pakistan's privatisation minister, Altaf Saleem, has stressed the government is not responsible for the hold ups.

Appropriate regulation?

"It has gotten delayed because parties did not file their bids in time," Mr Saleem told BBC World Business Report.

"If something happens 11,000 miles from here, if an investor outside Pakistan wants to wait and see how the market changes, then we can't do anything about that," he said.

And Mr Saleem denies the suggestion that investors shied away from the offer because there was inadequate regulation in place.

"We have gone through a very comprehensive reform programme," he said.

Sell-off troubles

The Privatisation Commission said financial advisers on the sell-off were still analysing investor's expressions of interest.

Pakistan's cabinet privatisation committee had been due to consider the sale next week.

There were reportedly at least 11 expressions of interest in PTCL from around the world, with most interest from the Middle East, Egypt and Turkey.

PTCL has over 3.2 million telephone fixed-lines and operates internet and mobile networks.

In August the committee approved the sale of a 51% stake in United Bank, the country's fourth largest bank, along with another 5% of the National Bank of Pakistan, and the sale of 26% of Pakistan Oil Fields.

Pakistan's border tensions with India, which almost resulted in war earlier this year, and popular opposition have also held back the sell-off programme.

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Pakistan's privatisation minister Altaf Saleem
"It was delayed because parties did not file their bids in time"
See also:

20 Aug 02 | Business
15 Apr 02 | Business
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