Irancell rings up $1.4bn

26 October 2007
Irancell, the country's second mobile phone operator, generated revenues of $1,363 million in its first year since launch, according to its managing director Alireza Qalambor Dezfouli.

Under its revenue-sharing agreement, Irancell paid revenues of $695 million to the government agencies that own 51 per cent of the venture. The remaining 49 per cent is owned by MTN Group, the South African telecoms company. The figures are the first evidence that Irancell has been able to generate a strong cashflow. Dezfouli also said that the number of active customers had risen to 4.6 million, up from 2 million at the end of June. A further 550,000 SIM cards have been registered with customers, but Iran's post offices have been slow to deliver them, he said. Analysts at investment banks have been critical of MTN's senior management for setting a target of 5.5 million customers by the end of 2007. In August, Rhys Summerton, a Citigroup analyst said: 'We think the expectation of 5.5 million subs for the full year 2007 is quite a stretch, and we could see some lightening in expectations.' (MEED 24:8:07). Although Irancell is generating more cash than expected, it is not clear if it is profitable. Moody's, the US ratings agency, estimated that Irancell would need to spend $1,500 million building up its mobile phone network in Iran. The company has already spent $354 million on its licence. In its most recent set of results, which covered the six months to the end of June, MTN admitted that its Irancell division was heavily loss-making, although it did not give a figure. State-owned mobile operator Mobile Company of Iran said it had 20 million customers.

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