Orascom: Little progress yet on Djezzy row

Orascom Telecom has made scant progress resolving its row with Algeria but a solution may be more likely now, its chairman said, speaking after changes at the Egyptian mobile company and inside Egypt.

Djezzy, Orascom's Algerian unit and its single biggest source of revenue, has been locked in a dispute with Algeria over back taxes since 2009 and has come under increasing regulatory pressure. Algeria has said it wanted to buy the unit.

Analysts say there could be more room to resolve the dispute since the merger of Orascom's parent firm, Wind Telecom, with Russian operator Vimpelcom and after a popular uprising swept out President Hosni Mubarak's government in Egypt.

"We see there may be an intention to arrive at a solution. We hope we are reading the situation correctly. But do we have any formal meetings or confirmed news? The truth is no," executive chairman Khaled Bichara told Al Arabiya television.

Vimpelcom said last month it would seek talks with Algeria on Djezzy following the more than $6 billion cash-and-shares deal to buy Wind Telecom assets including a 51 percent stake in Orascom.

Bichara replaced billionaire tycoon Naguib Sawiris as Orascom's executive chairman last week. Analysts said that change may be less important than the merger.

"It is more whether the new owners under Vimpelcom can go in there with a clean sheet and talk to the Algerians and come to some amicable solution," Naeem analyst Mike Millar said.

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