Thursday, 24 November 2016

Media roundtable with Orange Egypt CEO Jean-Marc Harion

We attended yesterday a media roundtable with Orange Egypt chief Jean-Marc Harion. Key takeaways:

Orange to offer additional shares on the EGX? In response to a question about whether Orange is mulling offering additional shares on the EGX given the high yields in the Egyptian market, Harion teased: “Maybe.”

When will Orange officially receive its 4G spectrum? “We have been told three months after payment, so it should be around February […] No need to say, I’m impatient,” said Harion.

Is Orange in the market for additional spectrum in a sale expected next year? “We will see,” said Harion. Orange would need additional spectrum as the number of 4G users increases, but for now, 10 MHz is sufficient, he said. Harion declined to speculate on how many 4G customers Orange expects, saying it is difficult to anticipate.

So how are “other mobile operators” operating 4G already? Harion explicitly said the regulator has not given operators the go-ahead to launch 4G services. “We are respectful of the rules,” said. Only trials are allowed in limited areas.

Agreement soon on loan from mother company: Orange Egypt expects to reach an agreement with its parent company to restructure a EUR 500 mn loan it took to finance its 4G license; terms of the agreement will be announced in January or February 2017. “They know they can capitalize the loan at any time if they need it, so the mother company does not have a problem [with the loan],” Harion said. “The most important thing is that we don’t depend on the loan from a bank — it is an internal loan.”

What about the agreement with TE for 2G and 3G infastructure sharing, the deadline for which passed on 31 October? Discussions continued as recently as yesterday, Harion said, but nothing has yet been agreed. TE will build its own 4G infrastructure, he noted.

On the effect on prices following the EGP float, given the purchase of equipment in FCY, Harion said, “The main challenge for us would be to maintain prices. It is very important to do it to make 4G available for everyone.” Egypt is one of three or four least-expensive mobile telecommuncations markets in telecom in the world.

“[It’s] weird” was Harion’s comment about Vodafone having shares in TE. “We trust the government and the regulator of telecommunications,” Harion added.

On the international gateway license, Harion said Orange has not yet acquired one, but that it is “still an option.”

Need an explainer for virtual fixed line license? Orange is now allowed to have voice services using TE’s fixed line infrastructure, not only internet and data services it already had.

Plans for mobile payments? Orange Money, which will provide mobile payment services, will be launched in Egypt. “We need to comply with the rules,” he said. Harion also said Orange Money could extend to more traditional banking services “in a few years,” noting that similar services will launch in France in the coming months.

** CORRECTION: Orange has a listing on the Egyptian Exchange; the first question in this story has been amended to reflect the question of whether the company has plans to offer additional equity on the EGX.

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