France Telecom declares interest in Vietnam mobile market

15 Aug 2007

Gallic incumbent France Telecom (FT) is reported to be interested in buying a substantial stake in state-owned Vietnamese cellco MobiFone, according to reports in the local media. MobiFone, one of the two mobile operators owned by government-controlled incumbent telco Vietnam Post and Telecoms (VNPT), has already short-listed six foreign firms as potential advisers to it on a stock market flotation during 2008. Following the flotation, VNPT will hold just a 33% stake in MobiFone, with a further third floated and the remainder sold to a strategic investor. FT CEO Didier Lombard said, ‘We hope to participate with the highest stake possible…Vietnam is a market with potential for growth…we aim to build a lasting relationship with a long-term vision.’ Vietnam’s accession to the WTO in January 2007 brought with it obligations to open the mobile market up to overseas investment, and the Ministry of Post and Telematics envisages that starting from 2008 foreign companies will be allowed to enter joint ventures with domestic partners, and after 2010 wholly-owned foreign ventures will be permitted to set up their own operations. FT is not the only foreign company to have expressed an interest in entering Vietnam’s burgeoning mobile sector; Norway’s Telenor, Japan’s DoCoMo, the UK’s Vodafone and French-US vendor Alcatel-Lucent have all opened representative offices in the country in readiness for the inevitable scramble to buy when the market is liberalised.