Thaicom confident it can unload loss maker Mfone

Thaicom Plc (THCOM) says it expects to settle a deal to sell its loss-ridden mobile phone unit Mfone to a foreign operator by the end of this year.

The sale of Mfone will help the country's sole satellite service provider bolster its finances.

Ken Streutker, Thaicom's assistant vice-president for investor relations, said the company is in talks with two prospective foreign operators about a possible takeover of the mobile firm.

Mfone is No.3 in the Cambodian mobile market, with a 14% share of 400,000 users. Metfone and Mobitel have 39% and 30%, respectively.

"We expect to exit the Cambodian market through the sale," he said.

Thaicom expects to maintain its revenue growth target of 8-9% this year, driven by satellite success.

Its sales and service revenue for the second quarter of 1.9 billion baht, a year-on-year gain of 3.4%.

Second-quarter net profit was 115 million baht compared with a net loss of 25 million baht year-on-year.

First-half revenue was 3.83 billion baht, up by 11.7% year-on-year, for a net profit of 157 million baht after a net loss of 192 million in the same period last year.

Satellite revenue grew by 17.5% year-on-year in the first half and contributed nearly 80% of total revenue. The mobile business contribution shrunk to 15.2% from 16.1% in the same period last year, while internet business made up 5%.

At the end of June, Thaicom pre-launch sales for the Thaicom 6 satellite came to 18% of total satellite utilisation.

The company expects to meet its target of 30% by next year's launch.

The Thaicom 7 satellite system has successfully acquired a 20-year licence from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

Mr Streutker said Thaicom expects satellite business revenue to rise by 31.5% year-on-year thanks to higher bandwidth usage from the open platform strategy.

The company is also looking to move forward with its DTV satellite box with more high-definition packages.

THCOM shares closed yesterday on the SET at at 16.80 baht, up 10 satang, in heavy trade worth 1.05 billion baht.

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Writer: Rupert Han