ICT snubs Thaicom contract change

September 14, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Bangkok Post

The satellite concession contract between the Information and Communication Technology Ministry and Thaicom Plc cannot be amended because it is long-term and was signed more than 12 years ago, said ICT Minister Ranongruk Suwunchwee.

She expressed her view after Thaicom requested an amendment that will allow it to lease a foreign satellite instead of building a replacement before its satellite reaches the end of its lifespan.

“The concession contract cannot be amended because it was signed more than 12 years ago. But if it is an attachment to the contract, it might be possible. However, this has to be reconsidered thoroughly,” she said.

She has assigned Vice Minister Nimit Damrongrat to handle the issue and expects a solution by the end of this month, she said.

In her view, Thaicom should build the satellites as it has many private and government clients.

Meanwhile, Mr Nimit has suggested as an interim solution that Thaicom be permitted to lease foreign satellites. But he specified that the company should speed up building at least two satellites – one to replace the satellite due to cease operating next year and another as a backup.

Thaicom chief executive Arak Chonlatanon said Thaicom can cope with existing and new demand next year as it is shifting some customers from Thaicom 2 to Thaicom 5.

Thaicom already proposed to the ICT Ministry that in the transition period before its satellite is ready to launch, it would lease foreign satellites, he said.

He also contradicted a report that Samart Corporation has approached Temasek about taking over Thaicom. Mr Arak is on the Shin board had never heard of this.

If there were any interest in buying Thaicom shares, he could not answer on behalf of shareholders, he said. But as Temasek is not a direct shareholder of Thaicom, it could not sell Thaicom or any individual company to anyone, he said.

Thaicom’s total value in the market is about 10 billion baht, he said. Its satellite has no value but its orbiting right is valuable, he added.

Samart’s president Watchai Vilailuck gave the brief response “I didn’t do that” when asked to comment on the company’s approach to Temasek.

Thaicom plans to launch Thaicom 6, which has more than 20 transponders in both the C and Ku bands, to replace Thaicom 2.

The company’s concession will expire in 12 years but Thaicom wants some clear direction now, as satellite contracts are long term, some up to 10 years.