SmarTone could be sold to mainland China, report says

10 Sep 2008

Tradingmarkets.com writes that Hong Kong-based property developer Sun Hung Kai Properties is ‘likely’ to offload the 58% stake it holds in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) 2G/3G mobile operator SmarTone-Vodafone to telecoms carriers based in mainland China. The news source says that the motivation for a potential deal stems from the exponential rise in people traveling from the mainland to Hong Kong, at a time when roaming costs of mainland operators are also on the rise. As the Chinese networks have finally begun their belated 3G technology rollouts, the acquisition of a Hong Kong-based 3G operator is seen as highly desirable. China Mobile has already taken over Hong Kong’s Peoples Telephone Company, but the cellco only provides 2G services, and among the SAR’s five mobile operators, only SmarTone remains an independent company. CSL New World Mobility is controlled by Australia’s Telstra whilst PCCW Mobile (formerly Sunday Communications) and Hutchison Telephone Company (3) are both part of larger domestic groups. Public investors hold a minority stake in SmarTone, which had 1.12 million subscribers as of 30 June 2008, around 400,000 of which used 3G services, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database. In December 2004 SmarTone adopted the Vodafone suffix following the signing of a partner network agreement with the UK mobile group to cooperate in the development and marketing of global services. The dual-brand, launched in April 2005, does not reflect any ownership of the SAR company by Vodafone.

Hong Kong, SmarTone