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Sri Lanka bars Lyca telecom bid

(Pic courtesy: Glassdoor) 

Sri Lanka has barred the Tamil-owned telecoms company Lycamobile from the bidding of the government’s shares in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, stating the company 'failed to qualify', leaving only India’s Jio Platforms Ltd and Chinese firm Gortune International Investment in the running.

In a communique, the State-Owned Enterprise Restructuring Unit noted that the Cabinet Approved Special Project Committee (SPCC) and Special Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee (SpCANC) had pre-qualified Jio Platforms and Gortune International Investments. 

Lyca was one of the three investors who had expressed interest in the sale of Sri Lanka Telecom shares, the island’s State-Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit said. Pettigo Comercio International a front for the Lycamobile group had submitted its interest through the NDB Investment Bank Ltd.

While the reasons for the disqualification have yet to be openly stated, Lyca had been informed that they failed to qualify. This is a blow to Lyca which has been showing keen business interest in multiple entities. Lyca already owns the Jaffna King’s cricket team playing in the Lanka Premier League alongside other substantial shares in other businesses. 

Key amongst these is a 40 percent stake of EAP Broadcasting Limited. EAP's media arm owns two television stations and three radio stations including Swarnawahini, Shree FM, RanOne and E FM.

Last year, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Mass Media Bandula Gunawardana said the state-run Rupavahini Corporation will also be leasing airtime of its Channel Eye to the Lyca group to recoup a series of losses. “A few hours of airtime would be leased to Lyca group for cricket broadcasts for which 25 million rupees would be charged for a month,” Gunawardana said. “At the moment it is making losses and cannot even pay the electricity bill.”

Money and Movies

Last year, Lycamobile's former CEO was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of €10 million after being found guilty of money laundering and fraud by a French court just weeks after the company launched a Sri Lankan production arm looking to boost Sinhala-language cinema.

The verdict in the Parisian court comes after years of controversial practices by the multimillion-dollar company, which is reported to have links with the war crimes accused Rajapaksa family in Sri Lanka. The French decision comes after the company’s movie-making wing, Lyca Productions, launched its arm in Sri Lanka.

The company's activities in Sri Lanka have frequently  the ire of Sinhala trade unions and extremist monks.

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