France's Orange says in talks with Iran's MCI on potential cooperation

The logo of French telecom operator Orange is seen in Paris March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French telecoms operator Orange is in negotiations with Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI), the country’s largest mobile operator, “regarding a number of areas of potential cooperation and business topics,” a spokesman said.

“We anticipate that these discussions will be concluded within a few months,” the spokesman said in a statement sent to Reuters. The statement did not elaborate on what those areas of cooperation could be.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Wednesday that Orange had entered preliminary talks to buy a stake in MCI, as well as on a commercial and technical agreement.

The company did not specifically confirm or deny this but said: “Like many other international operators, Orange has been considering opportunities in the Iranian market subsequent to the implementation of the JCPOA.” The JCPOA is a nuclear deal struck between Iran and six world powers.

Following that deal, most United Nations sanctions on Iran were lifted in January when the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran fulfilled commitments under its nuclear deal.

Major international companies have been rushing to try and establish a position in Iran as the Islamic Republic re-opened for business after the lifting of international sanctions. Iran is still subject to a U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions.

“We are conducting feasibility studies to understand and assess what is possible in this complex environment, particularly with regards to certain economic sanctions that continue to apply to Iran,” Orange said in its statement.

The French government controls 23 percent of the shares of Orange.

Reporting by Juliette Rouillon; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis