Algeria Plans to Buy 100% of Orascom Unit If Offered

Algeria’s government will buy Orascom Telecom Holding SAE’s unit in the North African country if it’s offered for sale, Finance Minister Karim Djoudi said.

“The government has the right and will take 100 percent of Djezzy if Orascom Telecom sells its Algerian unit,” Djoudi told reporters today in parliament.

MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest mobile-phone company, said on April 28 that it was in negotiations to buy all or part of Orascom Telecom. Djezzy generated the most revenue among subsidiaries of Cairo-based Orascom last year, according to the company’s website.

A sale would allow Orascom to exit Algeria after a tax dispute and damage to its infrastructure in November following riots after a soccer match between Algeria and Egypt. Algeria’s government ordered the unit to pay $596 million in back taxes last year and Orascom has said it will appeal.

Algeria’s government is willing to meet Orascom Telecom Chairman Naguib Sawiris to discuss the fate of the local unit, Telecommunications Minister Hamid Bessalah said on May 4. Sawiris asked to meet Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia after Algeria said last month it opposed a sale of Djezzy. Djoudi later said on Algeria’s National Radio that the law allows the government to take over the unit.

Manal Abdel-Hamid, spokeswoman for Orascom, declined to comment today.

Orascom Telecom dropped 1.5 percent to 6.39 Egyptian pounds in Cairo trading today, valuing the company at 33.5 billion pounds ($6 billion).

Orascom Telecom also operates in North Korea, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Namibia and Zimbabwe.