Thai government plans to take over broadcaster iTV

Suttinee Yuvejwattana & Beth Jinks
27 Feb 07

Thailand’s government plans to seize ITV Pcl, a television network controlled by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Pte, should it fail to pay about 100 billion baht ($2.8 billion) in fines, fees and interest by March 6.

The broadcaster will lose its concessions and be taken over by the government if full payment isn’t received by the deadline, Thipawadi Meksawan, a minister in Premier Surayud Chulanont’s office, said at a press conference on the Cabinet’s decision in Bangkok today. Temasek said in a statement it declined to immediately comment on this report.

ITV, the only network of six in Thailand that’s not controlled by the government or the military, was ordered by a court in December to pay the fine and back fees. The company has said it can’t pay within the deadline, and its appeals to the courts and government have been rejected.

“If ITV can pay, they can continue operations, but if they can’t, we have no other choice,” Finance Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula said after the Cabinet announcement in Bangkok today. “We will make sure the operations will continue” under government ownership.

The interim government, which was installed by a junta following a Sept. 19 coup, will establish a committee headed by Thipawadi, to run the network until it finds “experts in the television business” to take over, Pridiyathorn said. ITV’s name will be changed, and the government will continue to pursue payment, he said.

“We want to make the transition as smooth as we can,” Pridiyathorn said. “For the employees, we want to keep the whole team, as they are good.”

Shin Corp’s profit drops 60 per cent In 2006
Associated Press
27 Feb 07

Shin Corp., Thailand’s largest telecommunications company, said Tuesday net profit plunged 60 percent in 2006, the latest bad news for the company that has been at the center of Thailand’s yearlong political crisis.

Shin Corp., now controlled by Singapore’s government investment arm Temasek Holdings, reported a net profit of 3.41 billion baht (US$101 million; euro77 million), down from 8.62 billion baht during the same period a year earlier. The drop reflects weak performance in its mobile phone, satellite and television broadcasting units.

The earnings were lower than analysts’ expectations. Three brokerage houses polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected Shin to report a net profit of about 6.63 billion baht (US$198 million; euro150 million).

Shin’s total revenue increased slightly to 23.45 billion baht ($699 million; euro531 million) last year from 22.08 billion baht a year ago.

However, its total expenses jumped to 19.64 billion baht ($585 million; euro444 million) from 11.96 billion baht a year earlier.

Shin Corp. was founded by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September coup.

Thaksin’s family sold its majority stake in the company to Singapore’s Temasek in January 2006 for 73.3 billion baht, or about US$1.9 billion at the time.

The deal drew widespread protests and exacerbated a political crisis that led to Thaksin’s ouster. Critics said it placed strategic assets, including communications satellites, in the hands of foreigners, and because it was structured to avoid taxes.

Soaring expenses came as Shin booked 1.47 billion baht ($44 million; euro 33 million) in concession fees in 2006, up from 650.2 million baht a year earlier.

Concession expenses climbed after Shin’s television broadcasting unit iTV recorded 1.51 billion baht ($45 million; euro34 million) in unpaid concession fees and interest last year following the broadcaster’s court defeat in disputes with the government over its concession contract.

Due to high concession fees, iTV said Monday that it posted a net loss of 1.78 billion baht ($53 million; euro40 million) in 2006, compared with a net profit of 679 baht million a year earlier.

Another unit, Shin Satellite, reported a net loss Monday of 45.6 million baht (US$1.4 million, euro1 million) compared to a net profit of 1.34 billion baht in 2005, following a hefty write-off for its problem-plagued Thaicom 3 satellite.

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