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Algeria says old Orascom Tel venture owes $400,000

Dispute could endanger $6.6 bln deal with Vimpelcom.

November 4, 2010 9:56 by

Orascom Telecom , locked in a bitter dispute with Algeria, owes the government there $400,000 in debts left over from a former subsidiary, an Algerian minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The Egyptian firm has reluctantly agreed to sell its lucrative Algerian unit to the state but its hope of a clean exit could be stalled by a demand it settle all liabilities before the nationalisation can be concluded.

The dispute could endanger a $6.6 billion deal signed by Russia’s Vimpelcom to buy Orascom Telecom assets and create the world’s fifth-biggest mobile operator.

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said this week the liabilities included unpaid wages left over from Lacom, a now-defunct joint venture between Orascom and Telecom Egypt. He did not put a figure on that debt.

Algerian newspaper El Khabar on Wednesday quoted Telecommunications Minister Moussa Benhamadi as saying: “The company (Lacom) has to pay all its outstanding debts, including 30 million Algerian dinars ($408,000).”

The other liabilities previously outlined by Algerian officials are $230 million in back taxes, plus an unspecified amount in penalties to the tax authorities, and $190 million in fines to the central bank. Orascom Telecom contests the demands.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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