Beleaguered Thai fixed and mobile operator True Corp may be forced to downsize its proposed infrastructure fund IPO by around 17%.
The firm is engaged in an ongoing dispute with the state-owned operator CAT Telecom over leasing rights.
True Corp initially aimed to wipe off some of its THB100 billion debt by raising THB70 billion (around US$2.2 billion) via an IPO on some of its tower assets. The original plan was to sell tower and fibre optic infrastructure to the fund, then lease it back to provide the fund with a steady revenue stream.
However, True Corp currently leases 7000 towers from CAT Telecom and was intending to include at least 4500 of these in the IPO once it had reacquired them. The operator’s CFO Noppadol Dej-Udom has now suggested that this may not be an option as CAT is disputing the towers’ ownership.
The Thai Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap stated that any such ‘buy-back’ scheme would require the towers in question to be valued, in addition to being subject to the state regulations governing CAT Telecom.
Noppadol Dej-Udom acknowledged that this could affect the size of the fund, saying: “We are still committed to offering a THB70 billion fund but we are still working on details to finalise the number. If we come up with a new amount, it needs to be approved by the company’s board of directors.”
True Corp had originally intended for 13,000 of its towers – including the 7000 over which its operation TrueMove provides coverage – to feature in the IPO. The operator is reportedly considering substituting some of these towers with fibre optic cable networks, but this would involve reducing the IPO to THB60 billion.
With plans to expand its 3G and 4G networks this year for THB 15 billion, True Corp is in desperate need of money to keep pace with its rivals. It currently has no foreign partners to increase its allure, placing it behind market leader Advanced Info Service and number two Total Access Communication.