Merger set to face tougher scrutiny by new NBTC board

Merger set to face tougher scrutiny by new NBTC board

The planned merger of True Corporation and Total Access Communication (DTAC) is expected to face tougher scrutiny by the new board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which took office last week.

At least two out of the five NBTC board members had expressed unease with the deal before coming into office, according to a source at the new NBTC board who requested anonymity.

The five commissioners were endorsed on April 13 with their names published in the Royal Gazette a day later.

They comprise Air Marshal Thanapant Raicharoen, deputy secretary-general of the NBTC, in the broadcasting field; Pirongrong Ramasoota, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Communication Arts, in the TV field; Dr Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, a medical specialist and former member of the defunct National Legislative Assembly, in the field of consumer protection; Torpong Selanon, president of the Thailand Association of the Blind, in the field of people's liberty and rights; and Suphat Suphachalasai, director of Thammasat University's Institute of Area Studies, in the economic field.

Dr Sarana has been chosen by the five commissioners as the chairman of the NBTC board.

Despite having five out of the full seven members, the new board can still function in line with the NBTC's regulations, which stipulate that the number of commissioners must not be less than five.

The source told the Bangkok Post the board is likely to review all the details pertaining to the merger procedures as the board is responsible for handling the deal.

It is still too early to determine whether the board would consider approving or rejecting the deal, the source noted.

"It may take time to consider it carefully," the source said.

Debate has been mounting as to whether the NBTC has the authority to approve the merger.

NBTC management indicated earlier that the regulator has the power only to prescribe measures to govern the deal, but the merger's opponents have claimed the NBTC has the authority to approve or reject the deal.

According to the source, at least two commissioners -- Mr Suphat and Ms Pirongrong -- are not comfortable with the deal.

Dr Sarana is now on his way back to Thailand from a vacation and he is expected to start working at the NBTC starting from tomorrow, the source noted.

Pisut Ngamvijitvong, senior equity research analyst at Kasikorn Securities (KS), pointed out that securities analysts were told by True's head of investor relations that the proposed timeline for the merger remains the same and the regulatory process should be completed by mid-June.

True stressed its legal adviser is of the opinion that the NBTC has no authority to block the deal but only to issue some remedy measures to protect customer rights, he said.

He said KS is convinced that deal will eventually sail through, though the new commissioners may delay the proposed timeline for 1-3 months as they need more time to study the deal thoroughly.

Additionally, the new commissioners may put up tough remedy measures to relieve public concern over the market power, he said.

"We believe that recent share price weaknesses may already reflect rising regulatory uncertainty from the appointment of the new NBTC commissioners," Mr Pisut said.

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