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Privatisation gone sour: Govt signed agreement to transfer PTCL properties ‘which don't exist'

January 02, 2019

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Etisalat stops payment of $799 million after govt fails to transfer PTCL properties mentioned in the 2006 agreement. —Dawn Archives
Etisalat stops payment of $799 million after govt fails to transfer PTCL properties mentioned in the 2006 agreement. —Dawn Archives

The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications was briefed on Wednesday that at the time of privatisation of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) the then government had committed to transfer certain properties of the company which didn't even exist, DawnNewsTV reported.

During the briefing before the standing committee chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, the secretary of Privatisation Commission said that China Mobile had placed a bid of $1.4 billion while Etisalat had struck the deal for 26 per cent stakes in the company against $2.6 billion.

In March 2006, the then government signed an agreement with Etisalat under which 3,384 properties of the PTCL had to be handed over to the company. However, the Senate body was briefed that the properties on the ground were only 3,248 while 38 properties could not be transferred, the committee was briefed.

The Privatisation Commission official informed the Senate committee, that after the government failed to transfer all properties to Etisalat — as mentioned in the agreement — the Middle East-based company has stopped the payment of $799 million to the government citing non-compliance of the agreement.

Senator Rehman Malik asked the officials what action has so far been taken against those responsible for the inclusion of false properties in the agreement. He directed the commission to brief Etisalat regarding the current situation.

The committee also discussed the reasons why PTCL pensioners had been denied the increase in pension despite orders from the Supreme Court.

The standing committee members expressed their resentment over the situation and directed the authorities to pay pensions to former employees of the PTCL by Jan 15, 2019.

In 2006, Etisalat, the Gulf Arab regions second-largest telecom firm, signed an agreement to purchase a 26 per cent stake in PTCL for $2.6bn, but the company has withheld the payment of $799mn, due to problems linked with a transfer of real estate units.

Under the contract, the government agreed to transfer the properties before Etisalat made the full payment.

Etisalat has faced increased competition in its home market after its monopoly was broken in 2007 by Dubai-based du. Etisalat, operating in 18 countries, including Egypt and India, is one of a number of Gulf Arab telecom operators that have expanded overseas after losing their monopolies at home.