Orascom, Zain win Lebanon mobile contracts

BEIRUT, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Egypt's Orascom Telecom ORTE.CAORTEq.L and Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co (Zain) ZAIN.KW won contracts to operate Lebanon's two fledgling mobile firms, a cabinet statement said on Monday night.

“These two companies have ... experience in the Lebanese market that allows them to manage well and positions them as the best companies to run this sector in Lebanon,” Information Minister Tareq Mitri said.

Contracts to operate MTC Touch and Alfa mobile networks had expired last month.

According to newspaper reports, the new contracts are worth $145 million, and will come into effect from Feb. 1 for one year.

Lebanon has some 1.1 million mobile phone users out of a population of 4 million and mobile phone charges are among the highest in the Middle East. The new operators are expected to increase the network and bring prices down.

The new contracts are a stop-gap measure until long-delayed privatisation of the mobile firms takes place. The privatisation has been put on hold because of global market conditions. (Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Rupert Winchester)