Lebanon struggles to restore normality amid protests

Banque du Liban, the country’s central bank, provided banks with money from their deposits in order to meet citizens’ needs. (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2019

Lebanon struggles to restore normality amid protests

  • The ISG urged Lebanese authorities to address people’s complaints, demanding structural reforms and responsible and acceptable social changes that truly curb corruption and waste
  • Such changes, the ISG said, should ensure proper governance and full accountability, and lead to sustainable and stable growth

BEIRUT: Lebanese banks will remain closed in light of nationwide protests for the fifth consecutive day, the Association of Banks in Lebanon announced.

However, Banque du Liban, the country’s central bank, on Tuesday provided banks with money from their deposits in order to meet citizens’ needs.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Akram Chehayeb ordered all schools and universities to resume classes on Wednesday “in order to preserve the interests of students and to preserve the academic year.”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon, which includes envoys from the US, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, the EU, China and the Arab League, as well as the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis. 

The ISG urged Lebanese authorities to address people’s complaints, demanding “structural reforms and responsible and acceptable social changes that truly curb corruption and waste, away from sectarianism.”

Such changes, it said, should “ensure proper governance and full accountability, and lead to sustainable and stable growth.”

Kubis said Hariri “committed that the government and its legitimate security forces will continue to protect civilians who are demonstrating peacefully, and will take appropriate measures against any possible violent incitement, to protect public and private property and institutions, and the people’s right to peacefully express their views.”

On behalf of the ISG, Kubis urged “officials and political actors in Lebanon to listen to the legitimate demands of the people, work with them on solutions, apply them, and refrain from any statements and acts that could inflame tensions and incite confrontation and violence.”

After meeting Hariri, Kuwait’s ambassador to Lebanon, Abdel Aal Al-Kinai, said: “Now is not the time to speak but to act.”

The CEDRE Conference follow-up committee will convene in Paris on Nov. 15 to launch the implementation of development projects worth $11 billion to help Lebanon overcome its economic and financial crisis.


Japan’s NTT to spend $38 billion to buy out, take DoCoMo private

Updated 29 September 2020

Japan’s NTT to spend $38 billion to buy out, take DoCoMo private

  • Move is intended to enhance the competitiveness of the NTT group as it consolidates its services

MITO, Japan: Japanese telecoms giant Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, or NTT, announced Tuesday it will spend $38 billion to buy out and take private its mobile unit NTT DoCoMo in one of the largest ever deals of its kind.
NTT and NTT DoCoMo executives released details of the plan Tuesday.
The move is intended to enhance the competitiveness of the NTT group as it consolidates its services, said NTT’s CEO Jun Sawada.
“We want to be a game changer,” Sawada said.
He said that between Sept. 30-Nov. 16 the company would buy DoCoMo’s shares at a price of $34.46. DoCoMo’s shares were last trading at $28.39. NTT held about 66 percent of DoCoMo’s shares as of March 31.
The acquisition will be financed by bridge loans, not a share offering, the company said.
The restructuring dovetails with newly installed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s push for lower telecoms rates and more consumer and business-friendly services. It is expected to enable DoCoMo to offer cheaper rates in competition with rivals such as SoftBank and KDDI.
Suga has made expanding digital services a main part of his policy agenda and has called for reforms of the industry’s complex pricing policies and relatively inflexible contract arrangements. Pressures to improve such services have intensified with the push for remote work during the coronavirus pandemic.
NTT’s shares fell 2.7 percent ahead of the announcement, which was made after markets closed. DoCoMo’s shares were suspended from trading. Share prices for other NTT subsidiaries surged ahead of the announcement.
NTT DoCoMo is Japan’s largest mobile carrier, with more than 70 million subscribers. It was founded in 1992. According to its website, it holds a 44.2 percent market share compared with the 32 percent share held by KDDI’s au brand. SoftBank is third ranked, with a nearly 24 percent share.
Although DoCoMo is the market leader, its profits have been eroding, a factor that helped drive the decision to consolidate.
Sawada said there was no direct link between the buyout and cutting mobile subscription prices.
“However, by doing this, DoCoMo will get stronger. That’s why we are doing this. As the result of this, we could build a stable foundation which apparently could give us power to decrease the price,” he said.
The NTT buy out is the biggest ever in Japan and one of the largest worldwide. The biggest so far was the $48 billion acquisition of Dallas, Texas-based energy utility TXU Corp., now known as Energy Future Holdings, by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the Texas Pacific Group and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners in 2007.
A trend toward such deals appears to be gathering pace, as Japanese companies sitting on big cash piles adjust their business strategies in a time of growing uncertainty.
NTT traces its roots to 1869, the early days of the telegraph in Japan. Founded in 1952 as the government phone utility, it was privatized in 1987. The company has expanded its network services as its fixed line business has been largely supplanted by mobile phones, at least for individual users.
Japan’s mobile phone rates are on average about half the costs charged in the US and much lower than in Canada and South Korea, according to a study by telecoms services research firm cable.co.uk.
At about $3.90 for 1 gigabyte (1G) of mobile data, however, costs in Japan are far higher than in many European and Asian countries, such as China, where 1G cost 61 cents and India, where the cost was only 9 cents.