Egypt’s Orascom changes name, retains North Korea business

The Egyptian firm that provides wireless services in North Korea has changed its name, a move that reflects a renewed commitment to investment.

North Korea’s wireless services provider, Orascom, is not leaving the country. File Photo by Uriminzokkiri
North Korea’s wireless services provider, Orascom, is not leaving the country. File Photo by Uriminzokkiri

In a letter sent to investors on July 18, Orascom said a board meeting was held in April to discuss a change in the company’s name, Radio Free Asia reported Wednesday.

The letter also stated the new name of the company is Orascom Investment Holding, replacing the previous name Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding, according to the report.

Orascom built North Korea’s main wireless network Koryolink, and the company confirmed it would retain its telecom business in the country, RFA reported.

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The statement contradicts reports from December 2017, citing Japanese intelligence sources, that Orascom would withdraw from the North Korean market and cut off more than three million mobile phone subscribers.

Orascom’s financial report from the first quarter of 2018, obtained by RFA, also shows Orascom did not suspend its mobile phone operations in North Korea.

Orascom did shut down ORABANK in 2016, a subsidiary bank that was operating in North Korea, in response to U.S. sanctions.

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Financial documents also show Koryolink’s assets were worth $15 million, approximately the same figure reported in December 2017.

Orascom’s 75 percent share in Koryolink has remained unchanged since 2015. The firm operates the provider as a joint venture.

The suspension of ORABANK may have dealt a critical blow to Kim Jong Un.

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Kim has been pushing for technological innovations in finance, according to a South Korean analyst.

Cho Bong-hyun, a North Korea specialist at Industrial Bank of Korea in Seoul, said Pyongyang wants to introduce information technology advances. There are about 4.6 million North Korean mobile phone users, iNews 24 reported Tuesday.

ByElizabeth Shim