Iran says MTN poised for telecoms deal

Iran is finalising a new contract with South African firm Mobile Telephones Network (MTN) after throwing Turkish company Turkcell out of a venture to set up the Islamic republic’s second cellphone network, an official said on Tuesday.

Ebrahim Mahmoudzadeh, the head of the Irancell consortium set up to manage the multibillion-dollar project, said MTN had deposited the â,¬290-million licence fee required to take the 49% stake originally awarded to Turkcell.

The depositing of the cash with an Iranian bank is a first step to negotiating contract details and signing a deal.

The comments are further confirmation that Turkcell is out of the running, despite the company’s assertion that it remains involved.

On Monday, the head of the board of Iran’s state-run telecoms company also said that “in the eyes of the Telecommunications Ministry and the Iranian partners in the project, Turkcell is no longer involved”.

Turkcell was initially awarded the contract in February 2004 in a landmark deal to provide a cellphone service to about 16-million users over the next 15 years, subject to the payment of a â,¬300-million licence fee.

Iran’s existing cellphone network serves about six million users out of a population of 68-million.

But the agreement suffered a serious setback last year when Iran’s conservative-controlled Parliament objected to giving a foreign firm a majority stake in the venture.

The Turkish firm’s stake was then cut from 70 to 49%, a move deputies said was necessary to protect Iran’s national security. The spat has badly damaged relations between Tehran and Ankara. - Sapa-AFP


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