Cambodian wireless operator Smart Mobile is reportedly in talks with competitor Applifone (Star-Cell) concerning a proposed merger between the two companies, the Phnom Penh Post reports, citing the head of rival operator Cambodia Advance Communications (qb). ‘We understand Smart is in discussions over a proposed merger [with Star-Cell],’ qb’s CEO Alan Sinfield said, adding that his company has also expressed an interest in Star-Cell, but proposed a 100% purchase rather than a merger. ‘If we are unsuccessful, or even if we are successful, we will pursue other acquisitions or mergers,’ he added. Smart Mobile is owned by Latelz, a subsidiary of Cyprus-based Timeturns Holdings. Last month Star-Cell’s owner, Swedish telecoms group TeliaSonera, announced it had written down the value of its Cambodian unit by more than USD100 million, citing ‘no goodwill’ in a market it said was characterised by fierce competition (the wireless sector is currently home to nine operators) and high churn rates.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Star-Cell was established as a privately-owned GSM mobile operator in Cambodia in 2006 and launched commercial operations on 25 October 2007. During the second quarter of 2009 its subscriber base more than halved to just 66,000, which TeliaSonera attributed to increased competition in the market and the ‘next-to-zero pricing’ adopted by new entrants. By 30 September 2010 the figure had recovered to 503,000, placing it in seventh place in the market in terms of subscribers, with a market share of around 6%.