Temasek “woos” Thai firms

The Nation

Samart has reportedly been approached to take a stake

Singapore’s state investment arm Temasek Holdings is courting Thai firms, including telecom conglomerate Samart Corp, to buy a stake in its satellite operator Thaicom, an industry source said yesterday.

The move would help dispel criticism that national security assets are being owned by foreign governments or corporations.

Temasek took over Shin Corp, the holding company of Thaicom and other telecom interests, in 2006 through the purchase of shares from the family of then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other shareholders.

Temasek’s subsidiaries Aspen Holdings and Cedar Holdings hold a combined 96 per cent of Shin Corp, which in turn owns 41 per cent of Thaicom and over 42 per cent of Shin’s cellular flagship, Advanced Info Ser-vice.

Thaicom runs the Thaicom 1, 2 and 5 broadcasting satellites and iPStar broadband satellite, but Thaicom 1 and 2 will reach the end of their life-span late this year and in the middle of next year, respectively.

Thaicom has finished migrating Thaicom 1 customers to Thaicom 5. It has sought the Information and Communica-tion Technology Ministry’s permission to lease a transponder from a foreign satellite to serve Thaicom 2’s customers. The ministry is considering the request.

The source said Temasek and Samart have yet to begin detailed talks, as it is just the initial phase.

When contacted by The Nation last week to confirm the matter, Samart president Watchai Vilailuck declined to comment.

Thaicom also operates cellular businesses in Laos and Cambodia, and runs an Internet service, while Samart distributes mobile phones in Thailand and the region and runs the air-traffic controller service in Cambodia.

Thaicom’s stock closed at Bt7.90 on Friday, up from Bt7.65 a day earlier. Samart closed unchanged at Bt6.20.

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