‘Etisalat eager to resolve $800m payment issue’

Updated 03 Jan 2019

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Etisalat delayed the payment after Pakistan failed to transfer all PTCL properties under the agreement. — File photo
Etisalat delayed the payment after Pakistan failed to transfer all PTCL properties under the agreement. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The government is close to resolving the deadlock with Etisalat over pending $800 million payment from the sale of Pakistan Telecommunication Com­pany Ltd (PTCL), said Secretary Privatisation Comm­ission Rizwan Malik while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Infor­mation Technology and Telecom­munications on Wednesday.

He disclosed that a high-powered delegation from Etisalat has recently met Prime Minister Imran Khan and shown its eagerness to close the deal. “Another meeting with the Etisalat management is due later this month,” the official added.

Etisalat delayed the payment after Pakistan failed to transfer all PTCL properties under the agreement.

Mr Malik informed the committee that PTCL’s asset management wing had provided inaccurate and fundamentally flawed records on its properties as it owned only 3,248 properties but had mentioned 3,384 in the privatisation agreement finalised in 2006.

The government, which has 62 per cent stake in PTCL on Nov 15, 2018, has provided the list of all 3,248 properties to Etisalat with details why the remaining 33 properties could not be transferred to PTCL, said Mr Malik.

“While Etisalat paid $1.4 billion upfront, it stopped the remaining instalments amounting to $800m until the status of all the properties was cleared, which has remained a bone of contention for the last 12 years,” the official said.

The committee was informed that the properties could not be transferred to Etisalat because they were either partially owned, rented out, owned by provinces but occupied by the federal government, or were not owned by the company in the first place.

Responding to a question, the official explained that the remaining 33 properties – which cannot be transferred to PTCL – had been evaluated at market price and the information was conveyed to Etisalat.

“In the past Etisalat had also been requested to do the same. The purpose was to adjust the price of the remaining properties against the outstanding payment from Etisalat. Nonetheless, the UAE-based company has finally agreed to discuss the status of properties,” the official remarked.

Rizwan Malik said that the government must take steps to settle the issues related to the privatisation of PTCL as well as K-Electric. “Solving the problems surrounding these two companies will help restore confidence of foreign investors and create a positive impression of Pakistan in the international market as a suitable place for conducting business,” the official said.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2019