Emirates Telecommunications Corp (etisalat) is in advanced discussions to acquire an existing operator in Iraq.
"It was supposed to be end of 2008. They are in advanced discussions... Iraq is an opportunity, and will not always be like this," Etisalat Chief Financial Officer Salem Ali Al Sharhan said.
Iraq so far has sold three licences for $3.75 billion (Dh14bn) to Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications (Zain), a regional competitor of etisalat – Asiacell and Korek, all which already had networks in the country.
Etisalat, which operates in 18 countries, yesterday said a consortium it heads will invest at least $1bn in a mobile phone network in Iran.
Iran confirmed the consortium had won an international tender for the country's third mobile phone licence.
The consortium is led by etisalat, the Arab World's second-largest telecommunications company by market value, and also includes Iran's Tamin Telecom. The group will pay €300 million for the licence, Jamil Al Jarwan, CEO of etisalat International Investments said.
"Investment will not be less than $1bn. It should be up and operating within nine months and we might do it earlier," he said, adding the group may tap markets for financing, but would use own resources to pay for the licence.
The current 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, and 51 per cent Iranian-held.
Jarwan said the group would pay 23.6 per cent of revenues to the government in the 15-year licence deal. He said the group will have exclusive rights to provide third-generation services.
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