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Thai Telecom Commission allows foreign-owned companies to bid for 3G licences

Two of Thailand’s biggest telecoms operators will be allowed to bid in the country’s upcoming 3G auctions, even though they should be disqualified due to restrictions on foreign ownership.

The National Telecom Commission (NTC) of Thailand is accepting bids from AIS and DTAC, both of which are largely owned or controlled by foreign strategic partners – the Singaporean SingTel and Norwegian Telenor respectively.

This seems to contradict the auction criteria, which aim to “bar foreign firms from acting in a way which is considered having direct and indirect control, or influence, over Thai telecom companies through either policy or management decisions which go beyond what is allowed by their share ownership.”

However, the NTC is apparently keen to attract bids from large operators, with Commissioner Natee Sukonrat stating that companies that did not currently meet the requirements would be granted a grace period (determined by the NTC) to bring themselves into compliance with the restrictions.

Eighteen companies have applied to bid in the auctions, which are set to take place towards the end of September, between the 20th and the 28th. Currently the pre-qualification selection process is underway – the qualifying bidders will be announced on the 15th. Companies whose applications are accepted can expect the bidding for the 15-year licences to begin at THB12.8 billion, or US$405 million.

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