Monday, 28 January 2008

TM plans to invest in Cambodia, eyes other assets too

Monday January 28, 2008

SINGAPORE: Telekom Malaysia arm, TM International, is eyeing mobile assets in Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, and will invest US$100mil in Cambodia in the next two years to build its networks, the unit's chief said on Saturday.

Chief executive Yusof Annuar Yaacob also expected TM International's revenues to grow up to 20% in the next three years.

“We're investing about US$100mil in Cambodia over the next 18 to 24 months, and we're looking at a transaction in Laos at the same time – we're talking to the government about taking over one of their mobile operations,” Yusof told Reuters in an interview.

“As for Myanmar, which is the El Dorado of Asian telecoms, we're quite keen to do something there too – we've been engaging with the government there,” he added.

The company was also keen on Vietnam and would wait for an opportunity to open up, he said.
“We've been engaged with the respective telecoms companies for a couple of years now,” he said.

“It's also a partnership issue. Despite the war, they like American companies, but for an American company to come through the door, it might not be politically acceptable, so it might be an idea for us to partner one of these guys to increase our chances of taking a stake,” Yusof said, adding that possible partners included AT&T Inc and Vodafone Group plc.

Relations between Vietnam and the United States have warmed recently, culminating in the first visit to Washington last June by a Vietnamese head of state since the 10-year Vietnam War ended in 1975.

Last September, TM said it would spin off its mobile business into a separately listed firm, TM International, to help unlock the value of its fastest growing operations, separating it from its more staid fixed-line and broadband units.

TM International will house its domestic Celcom mobile unit and operations in nine other countries, including India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Earnings growth at TM, Malaysia's fifth largest company by market value, has mainly been driven by revenue from Celcom and its 67% owned Indonesian mobile unit, Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk.

Looking ahead, Yusof said he expected TM International's revenues to increase more than 20%, but this figure would fall when combined with Celcom's slower growth rates.

Celcom accounts for about half the group's revenues.

“The numbers are between mid to high teens (in percentage terms) for the blended organisation, over the next three years,” he added.

The listing of TM International would be finalised in early or middle of the second quarter, ahead of the earlier target of end-June, Yusof added. – Reuters

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