The Icelandic government’s committee for privatization had given twelve out of fourteen applicants approval to continue to participate in the privatization process of Iceland Telco, Síminn.
Non-binding bids were submitted earlier this month and final, binding bids will be solicited from the participants by the end of July.
Six out of twelve entrants are foreign, three are comprised both of Icelandic and international investors, and three parties are domestic.
The selection process will take both price and the experience and future plans of the prospective owners into consideration. US investment bank Morgan Stanley is acting as an adviser to the Icelandic government during the process.
The privatizations of former state-banks Landbanki and Búnaðarbanki, the latter now part of Kaupthing, came under heavy criticism earlier this year. The government parties, the Independence and Progressive parties, were accused of conflict of interest and crony-ism when they placed the controlling stakes of these banks in 2002.
The proposed privatization of Síminn has also been criticized. An article by journalist Agnes Bragadóttir in Morgunblaðið in April generated a substantial response from the public.
Among other things, Agnes described the Icelandic parliament Alþingi as body “lacking in ideals, inspiration, conviction and justice; and showing unfettered sycophancy and servility towards the anointed few at the expense of the nation.” She claimed that Alþingi had “stolen” the rights to Iceland’s most valuable resource, the fishing rights in the rich waters surrounding the island, on behalf of special fisheries interests, the so-called “Sea-barons”. She also characterized the then reported plans for selection of bidders for Síminn as “another grand theft” in the making.