CAMBODIA'S fourth-largest mobile phone operator, Applifone, has been taken over by Scandinavian telecoms giant TeliaSonera. The company is also buying 80 percent of Nepal's Spice Nepal in a $488 million deal.
"One of our top priorities is to grow our business in [Asia]...Nepal and Cambodia have a combined population of 43 million, low mobile penetration and growing economies," said Lars Nyberg, president and CEO of TeliaSonera, in a statement.
Applifone has more than 97,000 subscribers, a 3 percent market share as of August 2008.
TeliaSonera has expanded into developing markets in recent years, in part due to slow growth at home. The company is embroiled in a dispute with Russian-controlled Altimo over control of Turkish operator Turkcell.
While fixed-line penetration has remained largely static since 1995, mobile phone use has exploded, with an estimated 2.5 million subscribers now using one or more of the five mobile providers in Cambodia and the hand phone an essential accessory for urban dwellers.
As Cambodia's mobile subscriber base is expected to rapidly expand, competition is heating up, and some experts predict an industry shakeout ahead, particularly as the new international entrants into the market take aim at industry leader Mobitel.
Mobitel, which provides the 012, 092 and 017 exchanges, controls the largest share of the market, with more than 1.5 million subscribers today.