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Indonesian telco 'planning acquistion in Kingdom'

INDONESIA’S largest telephone company plans to acquire a telecommunications company in Cambodia, according to its commissioner Tanri Abeng, Bisnis Indonesia newspaper reported yesterday.

The Cambodian company in question was not identified by Abeng, but according to sector insiders a number of domestic telecommunications companies are said to be actively seeking buyers.

Officials from PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia – also known as Telkom – had previously announced the firm’s intention to expand to other regional markets.

“Telkom is looking for acquisition opportunities in Southeast Asia, including mobile phone providers as our market is starting to mature,” Chief Executive Officer Rinaldi Firmansyah said in September, according to Reuters.

“We need a new market but we will not go to Africa. It’s too far. But in Asia we’re open any acquisition possibilities.”

Company officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The firm closed up 0.63 percent in Jakarta trading yesterday, finishing at 8,500 rupiahs (US$0.894).

Several mobile service providers have recently been identified as possible acquisition.

Star-Cell – which claimed to be Cambodia’s seventh of nine mobile providers at the end of the third quarter – has received offers from rival providers Smart Mobile and qb, Alan Sinfield, qb CEO, has said.

Star-Cell has been widely viewed as on the market in recent months.  Its Sweden-based owner TeliaSonera AB announced it had “written down” its value by more than US$100 million late last month, claiming “no goodwill” in a market it said was characterised by fierce competition and high churn rates.

Cambodia’s largest mobile provider Mobitel had also been in negotiations with France Telecom, an official from the French embassy in Phnom Penh said in October. The firm had refinanced through a $591-million loan from the Bank of China earlier this month, with a portion of the credit to be used expanding its service. Prime Minister Hun Sen witnessed the refinancing deal in Phnom Penh, along with Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China.

The deal will enable The Royal Group to refinance a $421 million loan used to buy out a majority stake in Mobitel from Luxembourg-based Millicom last year. The Royal Group CFO Mark Hanna said the group was still “reviewing options“ when asked if the deal meant Mobitel was for sale.

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