Thaicom determined to launch eighth satellite despite probe

Thaicom determined to launch eighth satellite despite probe

SET-listed Thaicom Plc (THCOM) insists it will launch its eighth communications satellite into orbit on schedule by June despite being investigated by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry.

"We have complied with all relevant laws and regulations and are determined to proceed with our satellite launch without delay," chief financial officer Vuthi Asvasermcharoen said.

The launch of the Thaicom 8 satellite by the country's sole satellite service provider runs the risk of being aborted by the ICT Ministry's fresh order to scrutinise procedures again.

The ministry sent a letter to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) asking the regulator to put the brakes on the satellite launch. It also sent a letter to the Council of State last December asking for suggestions on the case.

"If the government wants to determine any new fees for the satellite business, it must be done after the launch of Thaicom 8, as our launching procedures have already been approved by the NBTC and the ICT Ministry," Mr Vuthi said.

"We don't understand why the authorities are seeking clarity on the legitimacy and definitions of the use of radio frequencies in the satellite business when we're on the verge of launching."

Thaicom obtained an operating licence to provide satellite service from the NBTC and a licence for its orbital slot from the International Telecommunication Union.

"I have no idea how the government could revoke our right to launch and operate the Thaicom 8 satellite," he said.

Thaicom operates under a concession with the ICT Ministry that is due to expire in 2021, but the satellite business is governed by the NBTC under the licensing regime in accordance with the Telecom Business Act, Mr Vuthi said.

Thaicom has spent US$180 million on the satellite.

Some 17% of Thaicom 8's capacity has been presold abroad, and it expects to reach 40% before launch by June. Mr Vuthi said Thaicom may seek damages from authorities if a suspension causes a delay.

The company operates four satellites. Thaicom 8 will serve growing satellite broadcasting demand, both domestic and foreign, driving revenue growth of 5-10% for Thaicom this year. Thaicom plans to build its ninth satellite, worth $200-300 million, for launch by 2019, Mr Vuthi said.

THCOM shares closed yesterday on the SET at 28.50 baht, up 75 satang, in trade worth 56.7 million.

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