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SMC completes Ooredoo buyout in Liberty; Globe ramps up small cell rollout

29 Jul 2015

Diversified Filipino conglomerate San Miguel Corp (SMC) confirmed in a Philippine Stock Exchange filing yesterday that its 100%-owned Vega Telecom subsidiary has purchased 426.8 million common and 1.53 billion preferred shares in Liberty Telecoms Holdings Inc (LTHI) from its partner in the wireless broadband joint venture, Qtel West Bay Holding (part of Qatar’s Ooredoo Group). Further, Vega bought out 175.11 million preferred shares in Liberty Telecoms from Wi-Tribe Asia Ltd, and 1.21 billion preferred shares from White Dawn Solution Holdings Inc as SMC consolidates its growing telecoms portfolio in the Philippines. The conglomerate paid a total of PHP5.75 billion (USD126.6 million) in cash for the three companies’ holdings, accounting for a combined 51.01% stake in Liberty Telecoms – which offers 4G wireless broadband services under the brand name Wi-Tribe. SMC’s board approved the deal on 14 July, and definite agreements were signed on 20 July. ‘Vega decided to acquire their shares due to the exit of the companies from their investment in LTHI,’ SMC said in the filing. Liberty Telecoms booked a net loss of PHP210.16 million in the three months ended 31 March 2015, a 32% improvement on the corresponding year-ago period, although gross revenue fell nearly 4% to PHP77.25 million. As a result of the deal SMC now owns 100% of the issued share capital of LTHI. Ooredoo separately confirmed that it sold its entire stake in Liberty to Vega (SMC), having bought a 40% share in the original WiMAX business in 2008 but having subsequently decided to exit the venture to focus on its core businesses.

In an unrelated development, the Philippines’ second largest telco, Globe Telecom, says it is ramping up the deployment of small cell technologies at ‘key locations’ across the country in a bid to further strengthen network service quality and coverage. Telecomasia cites a statement from the firm that following a successful initial rollout in the popular tourist island Boracay in May, Globe is expanding its use of small cell technology. In order to cater for a spike in demand during LaBoracay summer festival that month, Globe used small cells to offload data traffic on the island, allowing for peak speeds of over 40Mbps on Wi-Fi and at least 20Mbps on LTE, it said. Alcatel-Lucent provided the small cells for the rollout.

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