Norwegian energy company Eltek Valere has won a court injunction against Mfone, the Cambodian mobile phone unit of Thai satellite operator Thaicom, for failure to pay USD3.73 million in service charges, the Bangkok Post reports. ‘Mfone did not complete or implement its contract with Eltek, because until now the company did not pay for the equipment needed for its GSM network,’ the complaint filed by Eltek on 9 October said. ‘Despite this, [Eltek] tried to negotiate with the firm and many times informed them of the debt through their lawyer, but Mfone has not agreed to pay and even used tricks to delay talks many times until Eltek could not take it anymore.’ After reviewing Eltek’s complaint, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered Mfone to provide an assessment of its inventory and has also banned the company from selling any of its assets until the situation is resolved. Kouy Thunna, the lawyer representing Eltek, said Mfone has one month from when the injunction was issued to pay the amount, before Eltek decides whether to file a lawsuit. According to the report, the court ruling comes as other Cambodian mobile operators, including Hello Axiata Company and Smart Mobile, have threatened to sue Mfone over unpaid interconnection fees.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Mfone competes with seven other players in Cambodia’s fiercely competitive mobile market; at the end of June 2012 the cellco had a wireless subscriber base of roughly 400,000 (down from around 550,000 a year earlier), giving it a 2.4% market share. Amid tough competition and weak business growth prospects, Thaicom last year said that it was considering exiting its operations in Cambodia and Laos, as poor financial results were negatively offsetting the steadily improving performance of its satellite business.