South Africa’s telecom giant MTN Group says it has devised serious plans to boost its presence in the Iranian market, emphasizing that e-commerce will comprise a key theme of the company’s agenda for its future business in Iran.
A top MTN official told Reuters that Iran expansion plans were part of a wider 10-year strategy to cement the company’s position in what he described as risky but lucrative frontier markets.
“We’re very excited about Iran and the possibilities there,” MTN’s newly appointed head of strategy, mergers and acquisitions, Stephen van Coller, said in an interview with Reuters. “That digital economy in Iran is going to move fast.”
MTN, which is Africa’s biggest mobile phone company by sales, has already set aside about $700 million in capital expenditure that includes revamping its network in Iran, added the report. Nevertheless, it is also looking to expand its services to include rapidly expanding its e-commerce offering in the country.
“While our presence in Iran’s e-commerce space is still relatively nascent, it is growing rapidly, particularly in the retail and travel sectors,” Coller said.
With a young population and high levels of mobile ownership, Iran is seen as an opportunity for telecoms companies seeking to expand into frontier markets.
“As those restraints (sanctions) get lifted you will see that economy grow really quickly. It’s almost like South Africa in 1994 in a way,” said Coller, referring to the end of apartheid.
Founded with the help of South African government, MTN is seen as one of South Africa’s biggest corporate successes of the post-apartheid era but in recent years it has been regarded as a stock with limited growth outlook, Reuters added.
The company’s main current investment in Iran comprises a joint telecom venture named Irancell in which MTN has a share of 49 percent. Today, Irancell is the second-biggest mobile phone operator in Iran by the number of subscribers.