July 26, 2012 / 2:29 PM / 7 years ago

Tunisia to sell six firms seized after revolution

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia’s government plans to sell shares this year in six companies seized from the relatives of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after he was overthrown by a popular uprising last year, officials said on Thursday.

Tunisia's President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali takes the oath at the national assembly in Tunis in this November 12, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/Files

After the uprising ousted Ben Ali and launched the Arab Spring revolts, the new Tunisian government seized various companies and properties belonging to 114 people linked to the president of 23 years.

Eighteen months on, the government is facing growing pressure to speed up the sales of those confiscated assets to shore up state finances and plough proceeds back into an economy which was hit by political turbulence in 2011 and has struggled to sustain a fragile recovery that began this year.

The government will sell its 25 percent stake in mobile phone business Tunisiana, a 13 percent stake in Bank of Tunisia and 60 percent of Ennakl car distributors, said Slim Besbess, a director at Tunisia’s finance ministry.

It will also sell 100 percent of Carthage International School, 37 percent of Carthage Cement and 99 percent of the local branch of Kia Motors.

“International auctions to sell our shares in Tunisiana and Ennakl are ready and the rest will also be issued during this year,” he told reporters.

The finance ministry has set the end of November as the deadline for submission of offers for Ennakl, which was owned by Sakher Materi, Ben Ali’s son-in-law. Ennakl is the distributor of Porsche and Volkswagen cars in Tunisia.

Submissions for Tunisiana, which is majority owned by Kuwaiti operator Wataniya, are due by November 2.

Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia as protests engulfed Tunisia on January 14, 2011, has been sentenced in absentia to decades in jail on charges ranging from corruption to killing protesters.

During his time in office, members of Ben Ali’s extended family are believed to have accumulated fortunes, stashing money in foreign accounts and monopolising big business deals.

The lavish lifestyle and wealthy relatives of Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi, a social climbing former hairdresser, had come to be seen by many Tunisians as a symbol his corrupt era.

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