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Etisalat wins Iran mobile licence

14 января 2009

A consortium led by the United Arab Emirates’ state-controlled telecommunications company said it had won a bid for Iran’s third mobile licence on Tuesday, making inroads into a potentially lucrative market.

Etisalat, which is more than 60 per cent owned by the UAE’s federal government, said its consortium beat operators including Zain, Omantel, Telekom Malaysia and Bharti Airtel with a €300m ($396m) bid for the Iranian licence.

Middle East telecoms companies – primarily in the Gulf – have expanded rapidly in recent years, making more than $43bn of licence purchases and acquisitions since 2006, according to figures by Dealogic, a data provider.

Although many domestic markets are protected and so generate revenues for mostly state-owned operators, telecoms growth in the region is blunted by low population and high mobile phone saturation.

Iran, on the other hand, has the second-highest population in the Middle East and North Africa region (after Egypt) and has a low mobile phone penetration rate compared with many other countries.

The Islamic republic only has two mobile operators, the state-owned Telecommunications Company of Iran and MTN IranCell, a subsidiary of South Africa’s MTN.

The telecoms industry is not directly affected by international sanctions, though western countries’ ban on dual-use equipment, which may be used in nuclear and missile-related activities, affects this and other sectors.

The main restrictions come from the Iranian government, which controls telecoms activity for security reasons, holding back the sector’s development.

Also in the Etisalat consortium is Tameen Telecom, a company owned by the Iranian Social Security Organisation. Etisalat will pay 49 per cent of the purchase price, while Tameen will pay the rest, the company said on Tuesday.

“We are confident of the growth potential of this important market, especially with our two-year exclusivity to offer 3G services,” said Jamal Al Jarwan, Etisalat’s chief executive of international investments, in a statement.

MTN, the first big foreign entrant into the Iranian market, arrived in late 2006 and had amassed nearly 12m subscribers by the middle of last year. Iran is MTN’s third-biggest market, behind Nigeria and South Africa.

Источник: Financial Times

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