DUBAI, (Reuters) – Qatar Telecommunications Co QTEL.QA said on Monday it was studying the possibility of bidding for Iran’s third mobile licence as it looks to expand into new markets.
“As a communications market with a significant potential for growth and development, the Islamic Republic of Iran represents a potential area of investment opportunity,” the telecom operator said in a statement on the Doha bourse website.
“Qtel has not entered into any partnership in relation to this project. At the present time, it is studying the opportunity and will announce its intentions upon completion of its review.”
Iran last week invited firms to take part in the tender for the licence, for which documents are on sale from Sept. 6.
Iran’s long-running row with the West over its nuclear ambitions has already 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 two existing operators in Iran, which has a population of about 70 million people, are the state telephone company and Irancell, which is 49 percent owned by MTN Group, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest mobile firm.
State-controlled or affiliated Gulf Arab telecom operators have been expanding abroad as their home markets mature, spending billions of dollars on acquisitions and licences from Indonesia to South Africa.
Qtel, which will face competition at home for the first time next year when the UK’s Vodafone Group Plc enters the Qatari market, operates in countries including Indonesia, Iraq and Algeria.
London-based MEED reported in its latest issue citing company officials that both Qtel and Kuwait’s Zain were interested in the mobile licence.
Mohammed Omran, chairman of Emirates Telecommunications Corp told Reuters last week the Abu Dhabi-based firm had as of yet not shown interest in the licence.
According to the official IRNA news agency, Millennium Finance Corporation (MFC), an investment bank created by a team of bankers from major international investment banking firms in partnership with Dubai Islamic Bank DISB.DU, is the consulting firm for the project.
Shares in Qtel rose 1 percent at 0723 GMT.