‘We cannot operate if we’re not in control’; Telenor pulls out of third telco race

6 Nov 2018

Telenor chief executive officer Sigve Brekke has ruled out placing a bid to become the Philippines’ third telco, suggesting that the current rules – especially those governing foreign ownership – make it unwise for it to take part. Brekke was responding to a question put to him at the group’s Q3 2018 results presentation in which he was asked: ‘Given the [alleged] moral and financial corruption of the regime in the Philippines, including credible reports of death squads and so on, killings [of] journalists … why is this country not pre-excluded on an ESG [environmental, social and corporate governance] basis from relevant geographies that Telenor should look at?’ In response the CEO stated that it is impossible for the company to participate under the current rules. As reported by Norwegian news site Inside Telecom, Brekke said Telenor had learned a lesson from its VimpelCom investment [where it took a minority share in the Russian-backed multinational group, now VEON] and realises that it needs operational control if it is to enter a difficult market. He went on to point out that: ’We have made it very clear that this is a market where we cannot operate if we are not in control. Currently the [Filipino] foreign ownership rules don’t allow that. So, we have said that if those rules are not changed and if we are not allowed to be the majority vote shareholder and in full control, then we will not enter the market.’

Philippines, Telenor Group