Orange Starts Talks With Iranian Phone Carrier for Cooperation

  • French carrier seeking growth beyond competitive home market
  • Telecom companies look to exploit easing of sanctions

Orange SA said it’s in talks with Iran’s Mobile Telecommunication Co. over potential cooperation, seeking expansion in the Middle Eastern country as it looks for growth beyond France.

The French phone carrier said it is discussing “a number of areas of potential cooperation and business topics” with Iran’s largest wireless provider, according to an e-mailed statement. Orange expects to conclude the talks within a few months.

Access to Iran, with a population of about 80 million, could provide Orange with a fresh revenue source as competition in the French mobile-phone market weighs on call and data prices. International sanctions that kept many companies out of the country were eased in January, opening the door to potential opportunities. Some financial sanctions are still in place, which complicates attempts to develop business initiatives.

Orange is looking to develop a partnership, rather than discussing a purchase of a stake in the Iranian carrier, said a person familiar with the situation, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday Orange and other European companies have held discussions about investing in the Iranian company.

Orange said it has been considering opportunities in Iran after the country agreed to reduce its nuclear program. “We are conducting feasibility studies to understand and assess what is possible in this complex environment, particularly with regards to certain economic sanctions that continue to apply to Iran,” the company said.

No spokesperson was immediately available to comment at the department of information at Mobile Telecommunication Co. of Iran.

Orange is among European and Asian phone companies set to participate in Iran Connect, a telecommunications industry conference taking place in Tehran next week.

The company said it would look to emerging markets including Africa after its plan to purchase the phone assets of French rival Bouygues SA collapsed earlier this year, leaving the country with four major wireless carriers competing for customers.