TOT-CAT merger on course
New entity set to kick off by year-end
The government has rolled out plans to merge TOT Plc and CAT Telecom into a single entity, National Telecom Co (NT), in November and begin operations by the end of the year, says the digital economy and society (DE) minister.
The merger was approved by the State Enterprise Policy Commission (Sepo) last month.
DE Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said the merger of TOT and CAT Telecom is meant to strengthen business efficiency, reduce redundancy of operations and add value to the existing assets of both state enterprises.
"Sepo urged us to put the issue of the merger process to the cabinet for approval, but it will have to wait for a new cabinet," Mr Pichet said.
The plan was formulated last year as a solution by the government to keep the two state-run telecom enterprises afloat, after a previous plan to create two new companies from TOT and CAT failed to move forward.
Mr Pichet said the merger will not affect existing employees of the companies, including their salary and welfare benefits, and no layoffs are expected from the move.
TOT has about 13,000 employees. CAT has 6,000.
TOT and CAT Telecom will need to combine their existing management structures, which could lead to some chain-of-command complications.
Mr Pichet said there would be a new business unit under NT's management structure to capitalise on digital and innovative development, as well as rearrange current management positions.
"After the establishment of NT Co, the new entity will not be under TOT or CAT, but be 100% held by the Finance Ministry," he said.
There are two critical issues concerning the merger, especially for TOT, which is requesting that the government clarify the right of spectrum use by the two companies after the merger.
There is also the matter of existing legal disputes between the two enterprises and between TOT and private companies, which are still held up in multiple ongoing court cases.
Mr Pichet said the two issues are in the process of being clarified.
With regard to spectrum rights, the DE Ministry through its working panel sent a letter to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) asking an opinion on whether TOT and CAT can each use existing spectrum until 2025 under their previous deal after the merger.
The NBTC has yet to reply, but it's expected to arrive at a decision by November.
Sepo also submitted a request to the Office of the Attorney-General asking for clarity regarding the various pending legal disputes.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith has said he believes that TOT and CAT each will be able to use existing spectrum ranges until the 2025 expiry.