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Iran strips Etisalat of mobile licence; Zain could snatch it

12 May 2009

UAE-based telecoms group Etisalat has been stripped of the mobile licence it was awarded in December 2008 by the Iranian Regulations and Radio Communications Organisation (IRRCO). The regulator withdrew the joint 2G and 3G concession claiming that Etisalat had failed ‘to give necessary guarantees and licence fees on time’. Etisalat is considering whether it has grounds for an appeal. ‘Etisalat will carefully review its options and will revert back to the Iranian authorities in due course with a formal response. Etisalat is, and has always been, committed to the development of the Iranian telecom market and perceives Iran as a great investment opportunity,’ a company statement said.

Next in line to become Iran’s third mobile operator is Kuwait-based Zain Group, which has now been invited to renew negotiations for the licence. Zain came second in the original auction, which saw the concession awarded to Etisalat for USD399 million. Ibrahim Adel, spokesman for Zain, told reporters, ‘It is an interesting opportunity and something we will evaluate, but we will evaluate it in the context of the changes as the bids were submitted well over a year ago, and the world has changed.’

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