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Mfone value is revised

Mfone value is revised

07 protest mfone
Led by the Cambodian Labour Confederation, Mfone employees protest in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Althought the initial book value – purchase cost minus depreciation – of the assets of bankrupt Cambodian telecommunications firm Mfone was estimated at $105 million, employee representatives claim the estimated market value is closer to $30 million to $40 million.

Bou Kunthea, an Mfone employee representative, told the Post yesterday that the figure of $105 million was just the book value of the initial assets list, but the actual market value would be much less. She said she was advised by court-appointed liquidator Ouk Ry that it was in the range of $30 million to $40 million.

“The liquidator previously estimated the real market value at somewhere around $30 million to $40 million, although the actual value is still not known,” Kunthea said. “The buyers will be meeting in person with the liquidator to go into the details.”

When asked to confirm this figure, Ry would not commit to a fixed figure, saying it was difficult to accurately estimate the real value at this time, adding that at the moment he was seeking companies that might want to buy the assets.

“How much [the buyers] will offer, we do not know yet,” Ry said. “However, it is true that the real market value is not the same as the [book] value on the list.”

Employees, concerned about the depreciation of assets, have asked the liquidator to sell them off as soon as possible.

“Every day the equipment and other materials are left without proper care, so the quality worsens – that is why the price depreciates,” Kunthea said.

“If the selling of equipment is delayed, we are concerned the value will be less and less.”

Meanwhile, employee representatives were at odds with the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), which led a protest of about 200 former employees at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, demanding the situation be resolved soon.

Employees’ representatives stayed out of the protest, concerned CLC would charge workers for the successful resolution of the dispute. “They come to lobby the employees so they can protest to get a faster solution and provide all payments that employees should get by just paying 10 per cent to the union when the protest is successful,” Kunthea said.

“There are about 100 employees who agree on that.”

CLC representative Gnim Vannak, a former Mfone employee, confirmed CLC did charge a 10 per cent fee, but said this was only to non-union employees who had not contributed to the monthly membership fee.
Vannak said this was only one of several issues that needed to be discussed with employees’ representatives.  

“There are many reasons why they do not want to join the protest,” he said.

After a meeting during the protest between CLC and ministry officials, Kunthea said employees’ representatives had agreed to let CLC become involved in the dispute.

Dave Welsh, country director for the American Centre for International Labor Solidarity, which is working with the government on the case, said he was not aware of any union commission, but it was encouraging to have workers engaging with unions to develop “capacity building” on both sides.

“We advise the government it’s a win-win situation to invite independent unions to the process, to give them and the white-collar telecommun-ications workers exposure to one another,” Welsh said.

The Post reported last month that employees’ representat-ives had been asked by the liquidator to negotiate with other creditors to release injunctions against Mfone so it could sell off assets to pay employees.

Prak Rumnear, a former electronics engineer with Mfone who attended yesterday’s demonstration, claimed he was owed about $9,500.

“Why should we be patient and wait without an appropriate solution?” Rumnear said.

He said Mfone representat-ives had not provided strong evidence to prove staff would be paid, other than to say: “Be patient and wait.”

The Post has reported that Mfone owes its creditors al-most $159 million.

Of the 1,092 former employees claiming $4.4 million in compensation, about 80 are CLC members.