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Mon 25 Aug 2008 10:42 PM

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Iran invites bids for 3rd mobile operator

Dubai's Millennium Finance Corporation named as consultant to tender, says official report.

Iran is inviting companies from Monday to bid to become the Islamic Republic's third mobile operator, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The two existing operators in Iran, which has a population of about 70 million people, are the state telephone company and Irancell, a firm that is 49 percent owned by MTN Group, sub-Saharan Africa's biggest mobile firm.

Iran's long-running row with the West over its nuclear ambitions has led to three rounds of limited UN sanctions and mounting international pressure, deterring many Western firms in particular from investing or expanding business in Iran.

"The invitation to take part in the tender will take place through mass circulation newspapers from Shahrivar 4 to 14 [Aug. 25 to Sept. 4]. The sale of tender documents will take place on Shahrivar 16 [Sept. 6]," IRNA said using the Iranian calendar.

The news agency was quoting Saeed Mahdiyoun, the official in charge of setting up the third mobile network.

The report named the consulting firm for the project as 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.

"The foreign consulting firm will have responsibilities that include marketing, encouraging investors to participate in the tender, cooperating in the evaluation and determining the qualification of participating companies," the report said.

Officials at MFC in Dubai could not immediately be reached to comment on the report. (Reuters)

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