The Iranian government has reportedly stripped Zain of its mobile license in the country, although there seems to be some confusion about whether the company ever had the license in the first place. The local Poul newspaper quoted Iranian Telecommunication Minister Mohammad Soleimani as saying that another tender would be held to find a new partner for the development of the much-delayed project. The report gave no further details.
In May, the government cancelled the license award to Etisalat and said it had awarded it to Zain instead. Etisalat originally won the license in consortium with Taameen Telecom, a company owned by the Iranian Social Security Organization (SSO) that serves more than 30 million Iranians through pension funds. Etisalat has a 49% stake in the joint venture.
However, Zain said it had only been invited to renew its negotiations as the leader of the consortium that came second in the original bid process. If Zain was formally awarded the license, then it has kept very quiet about it.
"It's an interesting opportunity and something we will evaluate but we will evaluate it in the context of the changes as the bids were submitted well over a year ago, and the world has changed," Ibrahim Adel, a spokesman for Zain told the Financial Times at the time. "I'm certain we will visit them to get more clarity."
The license covered GSM services, but also included a two-year monopoly on 3G services.
There was also controversy over the previous allocation of the country's second GSM license. Turkcell, though its 51% owned subsidiary - Irancell, originally signed an operator license with the Iranian government in 2004, but it fell foul of a clamp down on foreign investments by the conservative Parliament. The Parliament accused the company of having links with Israel - and after a year of battles, the license was reissued - this time to South Africa's MTN Group. MTN took a minority 49% stake, while 51% was allocated to the Iran Electronic Development Company (IEDC).