Etisalat has not taken part in any discussions with the Iraqi authorities regarding the acquisiton of the country's fourth mobile licence, its chairman said. Media reports recently linked the company to the possible new licence, after the country's communications minister, Farooq Abdulrahman, told the Bloomberg news service that government was planning on making a new licence available. He said Etisalat, along with the US-based Verizon, were likely candidates for the licence, and that tenders could be requested within three months.
"We have not had any discussions about this, there has not been anything done in that regard," said Mohamed Omran, on the sidelines of a telecommunications conference in Jordan. "It is a very important market, a very good market for us, but nothing like that has happened." The company has been in discussions for at least a year regarding a potential joint-venture with Korek, an Iraqi mobile operator based in the Kurdistan region. In late 2008, the company said an announcement regarding the deal was imminent.
The Iraqi mobile market has grown rapidly since private operators entered the country, shortly after the 2003 US-led overthrow of its government. Almost half the population now own a mobile phone, with its largest operator, Asiacell, boasting more than seven million customers. In 2007 three operators paid a total of almost US$1.25 billion each to acquire Iraqi mobile licences. Etisalat did not participate in the auction.