Axiata sells Samart stake, may offload Iranian telco shares

29 Dec 2010

The Bangkok Post reports that Thai communications group Samart Corporation has paid more than THB1 billion (USD33 million) to repurchase its shares from its Malaysian partner Axiata in a bid to streamline management and operations. Watchai Vilailuck, Samart’s president, said that Samart is focusing on expanding in the infrastructure, energy and public utilities sectors to create new revenue streams, while Axiata wants to concentrate solely on mobile services. The founding Vilailuck family bought back Axiata’s entire 18.9% stake, and now owns 53.12% of Samart. However, the Malaysian telecoms group retains a 24.4% stake in Samart I-Mobile, the handset distribution arm of Samart, which also operates a 3G MVNO service in Bangkok. Axiata previously acquired the 18.9% stake in Samart for up to USD90 million.

Meanwhile, Axiata is reportedly looking at selling its 49% stake in Iran’s Mobile Telecommunications Co of Esfahan (MTCE), a small mobile operator which it bought into in 2005. The Malaysian group’s management, however, had previously said that it was in no hurry to sell non-core assets until the right price was secured, said OSK Research in a report. MTCE commenced operations in mid-2002 as the first provider of mobile pre-paid SIM cards in Iran. It is licenced to operate a GSM 900MHz mobile service with a capacity of 35,000 customers in Esfahan. Its 15-year licence expires in May 2016.

Thailand, Iran, Mobile Telecommunication Company of Esfahan (MTCE), Samart, Axiata,

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