Thailand’s third largest cellco by subscribers, True Move, this morning filed a legal complaint against the country’s second-placed mobile operator Digital Total Access Communication (DTAC) alleging a transgression of foreign ownership laws. Domestically-backed True took the case to the Crime Suppression Division to initiate an inquiry into Telenor subsidiary DTAC’s ownership structure based on evidence published by the Telecommunications Committee of the House of Representatives. The committee’s report of 21 April 2011 implied that DTAC is a ‘foreign entity’ because 71.35% of its shares are in overseas hands.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database shows that loopholes in Thailand’s law on foreign ownership have allowed DTAC’s Norway-based controlling shareholder Telenor to sidestep a 49% equity limit through locally registered nominee holdings. In March 2006 the Thai regulatory authorities drafted a law designed to tighten up the legislation, but in January 2007 the government announced that amendments cutting foreign voting rights to below 50% would not apply to telecoms firms. In June 2007 9.4% of DTAC was sold to the public and institutional investors in an initial public offering (IPO) on the Thai stock exchange, reducing Telenor’s overall stake to 65.4%. Other overseas minority investors own shares via the Thai and Singapore bourses.