Thai trio examine extra-terrestrial expansion

21 Feb 2007

Three unnamed Thai telcos have shown interest in buying a stake in Shin Satellite, the country’s sole satellite operator, reports the Bangkok Post quoting Information and Communications Technology Minister, Dr Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom. Executives from state-owned CAT Telecom are also known to have made inquiries with the ministry about government policy regarding a buyout of the company. The minister said that the government would not object to any moves by local investors to buy Shin Corp’s 41% stake in Shin Satellite if they could reach an agreement with Shin’s main shareholder, Temasek Holdings of Singapore. Policymakers over the past week have signalled their intention to press Temasek to divest its holdings in Shin Satellite, for reasons of national security. General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, the head of the Council for National Security, said last week that his duty was to ‘reclaim’ the satellites, deemed ‘national assets’, from foreign control. Temasek, which bought Shin Corp last year, had begun a process of divesting Shin’s holdings in Shin Satellite to a consortium of local investors, but its plans have since been thrown into confusion due to recent government challenges over the legitimacy of Shin’s ownership structure. Dr Sitthichai yesterday ruled out state seizure of Shin Satellite’s operations. Sources said Temasek would be open to a potential offer from the government, possibly through state-controlled TOT or CAT, so long as fair value was received for the assets. The possibility of a state takeover of another Shin subsidiary, mobile market leader AIS, though hinted at by General Sonthi, has been largely discounted.