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Tunisia may nationalize mobile operator

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Earlier this month, rumors abounded that the Tunisian government was looking at the possibility of nationalizing the Orange mobile company in the country. Those rumors appear to be picking up steam, a ministry of communications source said on Tuesday morning.

“The government is seriously looking at taking over a majority share in the company because right now it would be the best thing in order to maintain the company’s operations,” said the source, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak with the media.

Reuters news agency last week reported that The Mabrouk Group, owned by former president Marwan Mabrouk’s son-in-law, may be willing to divest its 51 percent stake in the company as a directive from the government.

However, it remains unclear if negotiations or government action would happen in the near future.

The other 49 percent of the company is owned by France Telecom, which also could be given the option of buying the majority stake.

Orange launched in the country in May 2010 and by the end of the year had some 750,000 subscribers, placing it third in the country behind Orascom and Tunisie Telecom.

It was also awarded the country’s first 3G network by the government, which may give the government more initiative to become majority stakeholder, Reuters reported.

By Jonathan Terry


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