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Former Mfone staff to get paid

Over eight months after Cambodian mobile operator Mfone filed for bankruptcy, the defunct provider’s former staffers should get their outstanding salaries in November, according to the case’s court-appointed administrator.

Bankruptcy administrator Ouk Ry said yesterday that deals have been made on many of the failed telecom’s assets, including highly valued cellphone towers.

“We agreed to this sale purchase, and we are currently transferring the assets that consist of towers and equipment in the base stations. [But] it takes time to transfer them,” he said.

In July, more than 1,000 former Mfone employees received 10 per cent of the $4.4 million they’ve been demanding in compensation after the company filed for bankruptcy in January.

Ry did not disclose how much money buyers are putting up, nor did he reveal the identities of the buyers. However he confirmed that the mediator should be able to pay the remaining 90 per cent of the salaries by around mid-November.

“We are currently transferring assets to the buyer. Expect payment from buyers soon. Once we receive payment … we should settle the workers.”

He said they expect the money next month because, with so many base stations, the transfer is a time-consuming process.

“Right now there are five teams going to all base camps, counting the assets,” he said.

Not everything has been put on sale yet, Ry said, adding that this will be done after the transfer of major assets.

Bou Kunthea, an Mfone employee representative, said yesterday that since the first payment back in July, former workers have not yet received any more money. She directed additional queries to the bankruptcy administrator.

Hundreds of former Mfone employees have repeatedly protested in front of the company’s old headquarters on Monivong Boulevard.

In April, they took their protest to the Thai and Singapore embassies to apply pressure on Mfone’s holding company, Shenington Investments, and the parent company, Thaicom.

But employees are not the only ones waiting. It is estimated that Mfone accrued more than $160 million in debt before it went bankrupt. Corporate creditors include Norwegian-owned electronics firm Eltek Valere and Chinese telecommunications equipment provider Huawei Technologies.

Kouy Thunna, the lawyer for Eltek, said yesterday that by law the company’s staff needs to be paid first before any other parties. After that, Eltek isn’t far behind.

“By law, we are the first [corporate] creditor that Mfone needs to pay,” he said. “We have enough evidence to prove that we are prioritised more than others creditors.”

According to Thunna, Mfone owes Eltek $5 million.

Ry said yesterday that the assets, which apply to everything from infrastructure to equipment, were hard to sell.

“But since we found buyers already we no longer have problems,” Ry added. “It took us almost three or four months to find buyer.”



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