Orascom Telecom confirmed today that its Algerian unit – known as Djezzy – has been hit with a further tax bill amounting to about US$230 million for the years 2008 and 2009. The development signals a further deterioration in relations between the Egyptian-based operator and the Algerian government, which is attempting to take control of the firm. “OTA (Orascom Telecom Algeria) fully objects to the reconstitution of its audited accounts,” the firm told Reuters. The latest tax demand is in addition to a US$600 million tax bill presented to the firm late last year, which was partly responsible for Orascom Telecom reporting a 32 percent year-on-year decline in net profit in Q1.
Djezzy accounted for around half of earnings (EBITDA) at Orascom Telecom last year, but the breakdown in relations with the local government has seen Orascom attempt to offload the business. Earlier this year, it attempted to sell the business to South Africa’s MTN, but this was opposed by the government, which cited a law that gives the state the right of first refusal when a foreign owner wants to sell assets in the country; Orascom is now thought to be in talks with the government to nationalise the business. According to Reuters, the latest tax claim is linked to a “suspected false declaration by the Director-General of the Algerian unit,” following an official complaint by Algeria’s central bank.