A Majlis (parliament) commission and the watchdog Guardian Council imposed new regulations on the contract earlier this year, including a maximum foreign holding of 49 per cent and Iranian management control. Local officials said Turkcell had been excluded from the licensing process, although the Turkish operator said on 21 June that it had received no official notification from the authorities. ‘We still believe in the Iranian market and we are working to establish the necessary conditions,’ Turkcell said in a statement to the Istanbul Stock Exchange.

Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI)also played down reports that Turkcell was out of the contest. ‘We are still considering both offers,’ said Massoum Fardis, the TCI official in charge of the second licence tender. ‘Things should be clear in early July.’

Nevertheless, MTN was increasingly confident about its prospects. ‘It’s not over until the fat lady sings, but we are very bullish,’ an MTN spokesman said. ‘Iran would be one of our biggest markets.’ The new network is likely to involve investment of about $3,000 million and will provide direct competition to the existing network run by the state-owned TCI.