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Etisalat to invest up to $5bn in Iran

26 января 2009

Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) expects to invest up to $5 billion over five years in its Iran operations after winning the country's third mobile phone licence, its chairman said on Sunday.

"We will invest $4bn to $5bn in the Iranian operation in five years," Mohammed Hassan Omran said at an economic conference in Saudi Arabia.

He said Etisalat, the second-largest Arab telecommunications company by market value, would spend $1bn in the first year on its network in Iran.

Asked how the plan would be financed, Omran said Etisalat had 10bn dirhams ($2.72bn in cash reserves deposited with banks in the United Arab Emirates. He did not elaborate.

"We have not signed the contract yet with the Iranians for the licence," Omran said, confirming that Etisalat would pay €300m ($389m) for the licence.

Tehran confirmed this month that a consortium made up of Etisalat and Iran's Tamin Telecom had won an international tender for the licence.

Etisalat has said the group would have exclusive rights to provide third-generation services, and it hoped to get at least 1 million subscribers in the first year of operation.

Iran has a mobile penetration rate of less than 60 per cent in a market where about half of its 70m population is under 25 years of age.

Iran's nuclear row with the West has deterred many foreign companies from doing business in the country. US sanctions bar US companies from doing business with Iran, and UN sanctions have made other firms wary of investing there.

However, analysts say the size of the market and its energy riches still make it an attractive investment prospect.

The current telecoms operators in Iran are the state-owned Iran Telecommunication Company (TCI) and Irancell, which is 49 per cent owned by MTN Group, sub-Saharan Africa's biggest mobile phone company.

Etisalat, which operates in 18 countries, is one of a number of Gulf Arab telecom operators that have expanded overseas after losing their monopolies at home.

Источник: Financial Times

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