The Jordanian government approved the sale of a controlling interest of Jordan Telecom to France Telecom, officials said Wednesday.

The deal gives the French company an additional 11 percent of the company, bringing its total stake to 51 percent in Jordan's sole fixed-line operator. Jordan also said it would sell an additional 30.5 percent to various investors, according to a statement.

In 2000, France Telecom acquired its initial 40 percent stake in JTC, making it one of the first firms to take advantage of the government's efforts to privatize it's state-run businesses.

The government said it also sold 10 percent of the company to Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House and Kuwaiti investment company Nour. Another 5 percent will go to the government's pension fund, while 2.5 percent will be sold to local shareholders on the Amman bourse.

An additional 3 percent stake will be set apart for army and intelligence retirees under a discounted share scheme.

The entire transaction is worth over 500 million dinars ($705.4 million). France Telecom will pay 5.5 dinars per share, which amounts to around $200 million. The Arab investors will pay 5 dinars per share.

The Jordanian government also said that the money earned through the sale will be used to repay debt owed to the French government at a 38 per cent discount.

JTC started trading on the Amman Stock Exchange (ASE) on November 2002 raising over $ 5 billion in its intial public offering. It is ranked first on the ASE in terms of capital and second in terms of capitalization, according to The Executive Privatization Commission in Jordan.