Kuwait’s Zain (formerly MTC) expects to bid in the upcoming auction for the two Lebanese mobile phone networks, the Arabic language al-Rai newspaper reported, citing Zain’s CEO. However, the company considered the governments expected price of US$6-7 billion to be at least double the realistic valuation of the network operators.

The sale will be for two-thirds of the networks, with one third retained by the government, which will then be floated on the Beirut Stock Exchange. Preliminary bids are expected to be presented in January, with binding applications due a month later. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and the Higher Privatization Council (HPC) are understood to have sent copies of their prospectus to interested parties.

The two operators have roughly equal market shares as they are tightly regulated by the government. The Mobile world notes that the two operators have some 1.2 million customers between them, representing a population penetration level of 30%.