Iran to Offer Large Stake in Telecommunication Co

A04090038.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian government has announced plans to follow its 5% share offering in August with the sale of a second stake in the state owned telecoms operator, the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI).

The size of the holding to be offered to strategic investors had not yet been fixed but it is expected to be around 49%.

Any foreign firm bidding for the stake would need to find an Iranian partner as a 35% limit has been set for non-nationals.

The Iranian government ultimately plans to reduce its holding in the company to just 20%. A spokesperson said the TCI stake will be put up for sale by the end of the 2008-09 Iranian year, which runs until 20 March.

TCI is Iran’s incumbent land line operator and also has around a 75% share of the mobile market.

“We had of course some interested foreign investors regarding this block (of shares) … from South Africa, Saudi Arabia, France, Indonesia and Russia,” Ali Rahmani, managing director of the Tehran Stock Exchange, told the Trade Arabia.

Rahmani named South Africa’s MTN Group as one of the interested bidders, although the company is already a shareholder in rival mobile operator, Irancell.

Iran has two main networks, the incumbent state operator, TCI – which the Mobile World estimates ended last September with some 21.3 million customers and 74.7% of the market. Irancell ended the month with an impressive 6.01 million customers. There are also a few small regional operators with negligible subscriber bases.

Irancell is the country’s second GSM license, with South Africa’s MTN Group having a minority 49% stake, and the remaining 51% owned by the Iran Electronic Development Company (IEDC).

Both Vimplecom and Megafon, two of Russia’s largest operators have recently said that they have been invited to bid for a third GSM license in the country.

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