MTN edges closer to Irancell as Turkcell's hopes fade

The South African operator had been ranked second in the original round of bidding last year and has remained an interested party following Turkcell’s prolonged agreement negotiations.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  October 9, 2005

South African operator MTN is engaged in negotiations with Iranian authorities with the view to assuming a stake in Iran’s second mobile licensee, Irancell, sources in Tehran have confirmed. Turkcell, which was the leading member of a consortium that was awarded Iran’s second mobile licence last year, has seen its equity position in the licensee, called Irancell, reduced over time due to domestic concerns that the Turkish company did not meet with foreign investment guidelines set out by the conservative Guardians’ Council. During the course of last month, the Turkish operator is reported to have been engaged in final negotiations with Iranian authorities to ratify its reduced 49% stake in Irancell, but these negotiations are understood to have concluded without the parties having reached an agreement. “MTN is at an advanced stage of negotiations with the Iranian authorities (to assume a stake in Irancell),” an informed source in Tehran says. “Turkcell appears not to be willing to accept that it is no longer the first-choice in this process,” the source added. The South African operator had been ranked second in the original round of bidding last year and has remained an interested party following Turkcell’s prolonged agreement negotiations. “Turkcell made a number of political errors in the pursuit of this licence,” the source says. Meanwhile, MTN, which has a stated intention to pursue investment opportunities in North Africa and the Middle East, has confirmed that it has submitted a pre-qualification application bid for a 35% stake in the Tunisian telecoms company, Tunisie Telecom. The telco is the monopoly fixed-line operator in Tunisia and is estimated to control 72% of the country’s mobile market with 3.2 million subscribers, and a 51% stake in Mauritania’s Mattel, which has 250,000 subscribers.

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