Special Report by the political analyst and journalist based in Tirana, GJERGJ THANASI
The Turkish company Calik Holding is to sell the Albanian Albtelekom to the Chinese HUAWEI Technologies CO LTD. Albtelekom was a state owned Albanian telecomunication company tracing its history to 1912, when Albania was declared independent from Turkey.
The process of privatization began some six years ago under the socialist Premier Fatos Nano. The democratic Party in opposition at that time strongly opposed this privatization Mr. Sali Berisha the head of DP caused also a diplomatic faux pass when Turkish Premier Taip Erdogan paid a visit to the Albanian Parliament. IN 2005 Mr. Berisha became Prime minister of Albania, then 76% of Albtelekom shares were sold to Calik Holding and Turkish Telekom in October 2007.In March 2008 the Turkish owned Albtelekom bought the Mobile telephone linsense called EagleMobile. It had a 13% share of the market(385 000 subscribers) within a year.
Now Albtelekom is facing serious difficulties as many of its subscribers are cut short their contracts with Albtelekom for newly established private companies which provide internet and fixed telephone service and sometimes also cable TV service. The Albtelekom charges for network maintenance and its fee for providing internet are well above the average of the market. Mrs. Anila Jani the deputy chairwoman of the Albanian Board of the Customers protection denounced such practices by Albtelekom in a workshop with journalists of central Albania, stressing the fact that the Board directed by her had reprimanded Albtelekom several times over such practices.
The Eagle Mobile’ the Albanian mobile telephone company also owned by the Turkish Calik Group is doing quite well, increasing the number of its subscribers making use also to the newly introduced option of the portability of mobile phone numbers.
The talks between Calik Group representatives and Chinese ones were stimulated by Premier Berisha’s invitation to managers of HUAWEI Technologies CO LTd: Mr.Ren Shu Lu and Mrs.Meng Wang Zhou to purchase the Albtelekom, calling it a good bargain in spite of the price being somehow high.
This invitation by Premier Berisha was made in the presence of diplomatic staff of Albanian Embassy in Bejing.
Such a possible purchase of Albtelekom by the Chinese company has raised concerns in Albania because of possible national security problems as well as the unethical behavior (instances of economic espionage against Cisco Company or Motorola ) on the part of HUAWEi in several countries ranging from Australia and Indonesia to UK and USA.