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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Lebanon's mobile sale under fire
Mobile phone key pad
Lebanon's mobile phone firms are up for grabs
Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has fiercely criticised Lebanon's plans to privatise its telecoms sector.

Prince Alwaleed has said the plan should be stopped "for the good and sake of Lebanon".

He has also prohibited any of his companies from being involved in the tender "by any means whatsoever".

Earlier this month, the Lebanese government decided to sell its two mobile operators, Cellis and Libancell, through public auction.

The planned sale was designed to help the government cope with its $28bn (17.9bn) of debt.

Bad timing

The Lebanese parliament was aiming to sell the two firms by the end of the month, setting a 9 August deadline for initial expressions of interest.

But the Prince has criticised the timing of the offer, pointing out the cash-flow difficulties facing many telecoms firms at present.

"Most of the international communications companies... won't be able to submit the kind of bids Lebanon is expecting," the Prince's said in a statement.

The 45-year old Prince, who also holds a Lebanese passport, has previously spoken out against the government's economic plans.

He is listed as one of the world's richest people with a personal fortune of about $20bn.

See also:

20 Aug 01 | Business
20 Feb 01 | Business
20 May 02 | Country profiles
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