Masao Nakamura, the president of Japan’s leading mobile operator by subscribers, NTT DoCoMo, is interested in making a significant investment in the booming telecoms market of Vietnam, China or India to offset stagnation in the saturated domestic wireless market. The company’s overseas expansion plan marks a reverse of a long-held policy not to invest in international ventures after its ill-fated investment push six years ago cost it a reported USD9 billion. ‘Vietnam, India and China are rapidly growing markets and, if we are going to make an investment, it will be sizeable,’ said Mr Nakamura in an interview with the UK newspaper The Financial Times. ‘Our focus is Asia. Overseas revenues will drive our growth in the future,’ he said. DoCoMo sees great potential in Vietnam but concedes it will be unlikely to acquire anything more than a minority shareholding in the first instance. In China, Mr Nakamura is mindful of the government’s unwillingness to award 3G licences to ‘foreign makers’ but says it would still make sense to take a small stake in a Chinese mobile company. ‘There will be a lot of demand for financial assistance to help with the cost of obtaining a 3G licence,’ he added.
DoCoMo invested heavily in the likes of AT&T Wireless, KPN Mobile and Hutchison 3G UK Holdings before the technology bubble burst in 2000, but the subsequent collapse forced the Japanese operator to sell its stakes for a hefty loss in 2001. Although DoCoMo commands a domestic mobile market share of around 54%, recent growth has slowed due to fresh competition and the introduction of mobile number portability.