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Etisalat wins Iran licence bid

UPDATE 1: UAE telecoms company wins mobile phone licence to become the country's third provider.

Iran on Monday awarded its third non-government mobile phone license to Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat), the semi-official Fars news agency reported, citing an unnamed source at the telecommunications ministry.

Among other consortia that bid for the license were Oman Telecommunications Co. (Omantel) and a Malaysian firm, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported, without giving further details.

Kamran Majdmanesh, managing-director of Iran's Telecommunications consortium, said Etisalat consortium was composed of Emirates Telecoms and Iranian Tamin Telecom. State radio said the non-Iranian firm would have 49 percent stake in the project.

"The bid gap between the first bidder and the second was more than five percent," Majdmanesh told ILNA.

There are currently two mobile service providers in Iran - state-controlled Iran Telecommunication Company (ITC) and MTN Group, sub-Saharan Africa's biggest cellphone operator.

Like other Gulf Arab telecom firms, Etisalat has been snapping up assets worth billions of dollars in populous countries such as Egypt and Pakistan.

Abu Dhabi-listed Etisalat bid to tap a market with a mobile market penetration of less than 60 percent, where about half of the population of over 70 million people are under 25 years of age. Iran has over 28 million mobile phone users.

Fars said the result of the tender needed to be approved by Iran's minister of telecommunications.

Iran's long-running row with the West over its nuclear ambitions has led to three rounds of limited U.N. sanctions and mounting international pressure, deterring many Western firms in particular from investing or expanding business in Iran.

The West accuses Iran of trying to covertly build nuclear bombs. Iran insists its nuclear work is only aimed at generating electricity to meet its booming demand. (Reuters)

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