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November 22, 2019

PM adviser for ‘amicable’ conflict resolution with Etisalat


November 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Hafeez Shaikh on Thursday asked the officials to ‘amicably’ resolve the issues that have been holding back approximately $800 million on account of PTCL’s privatisation proceeds from Etisalat for over a decade.

Middle East-based Etisalat couldn’t clear all the payments after the issues related to non-transferred properties surfaced following the privatisation transaction.

The company acquired 26 percent shares of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) along with the management control in a deal of $2.6 billion back in 2006 when Shaikh was the privatisation minister.

The Middle East telecom giant paid only $1.8 billion to Pakistan at that time with the remaining amount to be paid in nine installments.

Adviser Shaikh called for an early resolution of all outstanding issues regarding the PTCL privatisation with Etisalat and asked the stakeholders to finalise proposals on the subject within the next couple of weeks.

He was addressing an inter-ministerial committee constituted by the Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss and resolve the issues related to the PTCL's privatisation.

Minister for Privatisation Muhammad Mian Soomro, Minister for Information Technology Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, secretaries finance, privatisation, and information technology and telecommunication and other senior officials were also present.

During the meeting, the adviser was given a detailed briefing on the issues concerning the transfer of properties to Etisalat and the pending payments still to be made by Etisalat.

The finance adviser called for greater efforts to resolve the outstanding issues in a smooth and amicable manner and asked the government team to contact the senior management of Etisalat to listen to their viewpoints and decide the unresolved issues at the earliest as any further delay was not in the interest of both the parties.

A main cause of non-settlement of payments is non-transfer of ownership titles of 34 properties. Islamabad doesn’t want to transfer these properties to Etisalat for legal reasons.

In January 2015, the finance ministry wrote a letter to the escrow account agent of London-based HSBC Bank, saying that 3,214 properties had been transferred to PTCL, while remaining 34 couldn’t be transferred due to various reasons, including legal impediments.

It was also informed that independent valuators determined financial worth of the properties at $92.4 million, according to the letter, titled ‘second shortfall properties’, available with The News. The $800 million have been lying in the escrow account for over a decade and it would be transferred to Pakistan after the settlement of the issue.

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