The world might be getting twitchy about Iran's overt and covert nuclear programmes and the imminent testing of a long range missile that could hit Israel and/or US bases in the Gulf and Turkey and thus precipitate the Third World War but, inside the topsy-turvy world of the Islamic Republic, the eyes of those that have not been jailed for protesting the recent fixed presidential election are being firmly directed onto the telecoms industry, reports Martyn Warwick.
So, comes the news today that a so-called "consortium" has bought "50 per cent plus one share" in the state-owned carrier, the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) the for the equivalent of of some US$7.8 billion.
Iran's geriatric theocracy presided over by the permanently tie-less and, some would opine, equally clueless Mr. Imadinnerjacket might be de facto dictators but they are also, apparently, in favour of a bit of competition and privatisation - provided it's state-sponsored.
So this morning the "semi-official" Mehr News Agency (whatever that means) has been instructed to cite a report issued by the country's "Privatisation Organisation" to the effect that two consortia have been vying to take a controlling interest in TCI.
And now there's a winner. Let joy be unconfined.
According to the Mehr News Agency the TCI made a bid to buy itself and was partially successful. Strange that. However, the real winner turns out to be Etemad Mobin a "co-operative" owned by, of all things Iran's Republican Guards. Henceforth subscriber's will have to be bloody careful to ensure they pay their bills on time or the lads'll be round with the pliers.
You'll soon be able to identify defaulters, they won't have any fingernails.
It seems the sale of TCI, that has total control over Iran's fixed-line infrastructure, is part of an initaitive to sell-off some state-owned asets.
The big "deal" is being trumpeted as the largest ever recorded on the Tehran stock exchange. Mehdi Aghdaie, the deputy director of the Privatisation Organisation says the sale equates to some ten per cent of the stock market's total value.
That's as maybe, but the worryiong aspect to all this is that the "sale" put Iranian fixed line telecoms firmly under the control of the Revolutionary Guard. This violently repressive body is described by the current Iranian regime as "an elite force created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to defend that Revolution." Others call it the major organ of state oppression.
Known within Iran as Sepah, the Rovolutionary Guard is a military and paramilitary organisation of some 120,000 members that also has its own navel and air force units. It also has enormous political power.
Taking a lesson from history (in particular the commercial enterprises such as Huawei that first saw the light of day as part of China's People's Revolutionary Army), Iran's Rvolutionary Guards, when not terrorising the Iranian population at large, has developed part of itself into what the US calls a "multibillion-dollar business empire." As well as telecoms, the Guards have major holdings in the oil, engineering and construction industries. The force is also rumoured to be heavily involved in organised smuggling including the illicit distribution of alcohol.
Naughty, naughty Revolutionary Guards. Wonder what their customer service will be like? Fundamentally flawed, probably.
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