According to reports in the Bangkok Post, CAT Telecom is in talks to acquire BFKT, a wholly owned unit of the Hutchison Group which provides equipment and base stations for Hutch’s CDMA mobile network. CAT Telecom president Withit Sajjapong has confirmed that two rounds of negotiations have taken place and the Hong Kong-based concern is expected to give its answer within the next fortnight.
No concrete details of the takeover are available but local industry watchers believe one option could see Hutchison continuing to market services in the country under a revised and expanded nationwide agreement. CAT Telecom is believed to have offered in the region of THB10 billion for the network assets, considerably less than the THB30 billion Hutch spent on setting up the CDMA network. Hutchison CAT Wireless Multimedia is 74% owned by the Hong Kong conglomerate with the remainder controlled by CAT. The cellco provides marketing services for the CDMA system in 25 central provinces including the capital Bangkok, and CAT Telecom leases network capacity from BFKT.
CAT Telecom recently announced a major upgrade to its nationwide CDMA network, with the signing of a THB7.12 billion deal with Huawei Technologies of China to provide 1,600 new base stations. The expansion could have a knock-on benefit for Hutch which is currently the smallest of the country’s four main operators behind AIS, DTAC and True Mobile (TA Orange). CAT Telecom is looking to transform its operation into becoming a network provider rather than simply a services operator, given the significant growth prospects afforded by the local market.