Merger to form Thailand’s largest mobile firm gets nod after 11-hour meeting

Telenor's Total Access, known as Dtac, and True Corp are seeking to expand their presence in internet and start-up ventures by joining forces. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK – Thailand’s telecommunications regulator cleared a planned merger between Telenor’s local unit and True Corp with some conditions, removing the final hurdle in creating the nation’s largest mobile operator.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said late on Thursday that Telenor’s Total Access Communication and True may proceed with the merger through an all-share deal, first announced almost a year ago. 

The delayed approval comes after some consumer groups and Advanced Info, backed by Thai billionaire Sarath Ratanavadi and Singapore Telecommunications, raised concerns about industry monopoly.

The regulator tied the merger to a number of conditions to protect consumer interests and ensure fair competition in the industry.

The five-member board of the commission, which held a marathon 11-hour meeting, was split on clearing the deal, with the chairman exercising his powers to greenlight the merger, the commission said. One member abstained from voting, it added.

The combined entity, valued at US$7.3 billion (S$10.4 billion) at Thursday’s closing price, will have more mobile subscribers than Advanced Info Services, the current market leader.

Total Access, known as Dtac, and True, backed by Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group and China Mobile, are seeking to expand their presence in internet and start-up ventures by joining forces.

“The next step in the merger is for Dtac and True to discuss these conditions with the NBTC. If the merged entity accepts the conditions, the merger will proceed and the tender offer process can start within a month from today,” Mr Phatipak Navawatana, an analyst Krungsri Securities, wrote in a note Friday. “The merger is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The regulator’s board outlined five areas of concern, including the service rates, market obstruction, quality of service, spectrum holding and shared infrastructure, and the country’s digital divide.

The new entity will be listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the companies have said. The CP Group would own 29 per cent of the merged entity, Telenor would hold 27 per cent and China Mobile would have 10.4 per cent, with the rest being held by minority holders, according to the filing. 

True shares rose as much as 2 per cent before trading 1 per cent lower at 5.05 baht at 11.55am in Bangkok, while Total Access trimmed gains to 0.5 per cent after climbing 2.2 per cent earlier. BLOOMBERG

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