Hong Kong-owned Hutchison Telecom has proposed a deal under which CAT Telecom, its partner in joint venture cellco Hutchison CAT Wireless Multimedia, would take sole control of its mobile networks in Thailand, as one of several options in ongoing negotiations to merge the Hutchison-CAT and CAT networks. The proposal has fuelled rumours that Hutchison might be planning to bow out of the Thai market altogether. CAT senior executive vice president Sompol Chanprasert said yesterday: ‘By asking that we buy the network and related systems, it seems to me that Hutchison Telecom does not want to continue doing business in Thailand. They’ll later submit to us the value of the proposed network, and we hope it’ll be a reasonable price.’ The jointly owned Hutchison-CAT network is present in 25 central provinces including Bangkok whilst CAT has sole ownership of infrastructure covering 51 provinces.
If Hutchison did withdraw from Thailand, it would mark the third major change in local telecoms ownership in recent months. At the beginning of this week, the Shinawatra and Damapong families sold off their controlling stake in cellco AIS’ parent Shin Corp to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, and last November, the Bencharongkul family divested United Communication Industry (Ucom) to its Norwegian strategic partner Telenor.