Zain in talks on Iranian mobile licence

Kuwait-based pan-MEA carrier Zain is in line to snap up Iran’s third mobile licence.

According to various newswires, a consortium comprising Etisalat and Iran’s Tamin Telecom, which had originally won the international tender for Iran’s third mobile licence, has had its concession taken away. This is because, according to the IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency), it has “not fulfilled its obligations”.

While details are still sketchy as to which obligations Etisalat have not fulfilled, the upshot is that a Zain-led consortium, which came second in the mobile licence bid, is now in talks with Iran’s Communications Regulatory Authority to thrash out the terms and conditions that would need to be met in order for it to fill the gap left by Etisalat

Zain is keen to grow through international expansion and already operates in 23 countries in the Middle East and Africa.  Iran is a promising market for growth with a penetration rate less than 60 per cent in a country with a population of around 70 million.

The licence development in Iran comes just days after Zain announced a cost-cutting plan, which it claims will propel the company toward its target of being a top ten operator by 2011.

The main thrust of the initiative will see the firm reduce its 15,500 strong global workforce by 2,000 – a 13 per cent reduction across the board, with operations in Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malawi and Sierra Leone already implementing the changes.

According to Zain Group CEO, Saad Al Barrak, the ‘Drive2011’ initiative is expected to improve Zain’s operating margin by five per cent within 12 months. “This will be achieved through a combination of managed outsourcing, centralisation and leveraging capabilities, as well as training and development for our personnel, all of which will improve our operating efficiencies,” he said.

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