Happy Birthday TE
TELECOM Egypt (TE) this year celebrates 150 years in business. The company last week kicked off year-long celebrations to commemorate the event. Akil Beshir, chairman of Telecom Egypt, during a press conference said that the company has come a long way in recent years. Two decades ago there were only 418,000 subscribers, a teledensity of less than one per cent. "Individuals reserved lines for their children knowing it would take 20 years before their turn actually came," said Azza Torky, vice chairman of TE's international communications and marketing department.
Today, the company boasts around nine million subscribers and teledensity is around 13 per cent. Beshir also reaffirmed that plans to privatise the company have not been shelved, but only postponed until market conditions improve. He reminded the audience that up to 20 per cent of the company was set to be sold in an initial public offering back in October 2000, but the company was advised to reconsider due to negative market conditions then.
However, Beshir said that there are signals that the market may be improving. Beshir also said that TE is preparing for the issuance of its bonds in September. This week, the company signed a deal with HSBC by which the latter has become the financial advisor on the LE2 million bond issue. The sum will be used to expand TE's network, offering new services and pay up old debts. The different aspects of the bond issue will be examined by HSBC during the coming six months.
EGYPT'S competitiveness in the global economy was the subject of discussion at a symposium organised by the Egyptian Junior Businessmen's Association last week. The symposium was complemented by an exhibition of companies and non-profit organisations.
The discussion highlighted the factors eroding Egypt's competitiveness and investigating the means for improvement, through an open dialogue between young business leaders and public decision makers.
The association's Vice Chairman Helmy Abul-Eish grimly noted Egypt's fall in the ranks of the World Economic Forum's annual competitiveness index, from 47th out of 75 nations in 2001 to 58th out of 102 nations in 2003.
"We must prepare ourselves for the challenges of globalisation, because it's coming and we should be prepared," he said. Abul-Eish, however, said he was happy to see a strong government initiative to improve Egypt's competitiveness rating for 2004.
EJA's chairman, Nihad Ragab highlighted the problems which hinder the competitiveness of Egyptian products. These weaknesses include an inefficient and obstructionist bureaucracy, an extremely complex collection of ever-changing laws, an unstable foreign exchange market, the unavailability of dependable information statistics, as well as a liquidity crisis that has limited the abilities of financial institutions. Add to that a work force poorly trained for the skills necessary to compete in a globalising world, a rapidly increasing population, and a lack of government transparency.