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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mfone worth only $105m

Mfone worth only $105m

mfone heng chivoan
A motorbike passes by the boarded-up office of Mfone in Phnom Penh, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Failed Cambodian telco company Mfone owes $159 million to multiple creditors, while the company’s assets are estimated to be worth only $105 million, according to workers who attended a creditors’ meeting on Monday.

Employee representative Prang Vuthy said the court-appointed liquidator of Mfone’s assets, Ouk Ry, advised workers’ representatives of the valuations at Monday’s meeting and asked them to help convince creditors to withdraw their injunctions to allow for the sale of the assets.

“During yesterday’s meeting, we met with all creditors’ representatives from Huawei, NEC, Cambodian Fibre Optic Cable Network, Vatana and Eltek. Most of the creditors agreed with us to withdraw the injunction lawsuit in order to let Mr Ouk Ry sell the assets to get the money to pay everyone,” Vuthy said, adding “not all creditors had agreed, so we will try to meet and negotiate with them”.

Kouy Thanna, a lawyer for Eltek – the first creditor to file an injunction – said he was keen to find a speedy resolution that also worked for employees, but said Eltek would not withdraw their injunction unless their conditions were met.

“They have to agree that we are the first priority to receive the money. They have to tell us the total value of the assets, the selling price and the distribution,” he said.

“If they agree, we will withdraw.” Thanna added that Mfone originally owed Eltek more than $2 million, but with interest, it was now closer to $5 million.

Liquidator Ouk Ry told the Post he is working closely with all concerned parties but would not provide any details.

“Now I cannot say anything because I have a headache, we are not only dealing with workers but also with many other concerned parties,” he said.

“We really want to expedite the issue but it is progressing now.

“We will pay them [the workers] if we have money.”

Dave Welsh, country director for the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, said it is not the workers’ responsibility to negotiate with creditors, and he expects that workers’ rights will be protected if they follow the legal process.

“The law is not for workers to pressure creditors; it is for the government to apply the domestic labour law.”

Vuthy said that if workers’ demands were not met at the next meeting – scheduled for April 8 – protests would escalate.

“I think we got very positive results from yesterday’s meeting, so our big meeting will be fruitful,” he said.

“If they don’t agree with us, we will have a big strike in front of the Thai embassy, Singapore’s embassy and [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s] house. But now we wait to see the result.”

There were no comments from any parties as to whether the transfer of Mfone subscribers to Mobitel would be challenged as an asset to be included in the valuation.

To contact the reporters on this story: May Kunmakara at kunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com, Daniel de Carteret at daniel.decarteret@phnompenhpost.com

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