Vietnam: Telstra, Comviq show interest in Vietnam’s Mobifone

Visual from MobiFone website

Australia’s largest telecommunications provider Telstra is the latest foreign company to show its interest in picking up a stake in Vietnam’s second largest mobile operator MobiFone, according to reports in local media.

Telstra now joins a list of international teclos, which include Norway’s Telenor, Sweden’s Comviq and Malaysia’s Axiata, all of who have expressed interest in MobiFone’s privatisation, which is slated to be implemented by the first half of next year.

Telstra and Comviq are expected to have an edge in the race, as they have historically been associated with the Vietnamese telecommunications industry.

Over a 17 year period ending 2003, Telstra had invested about $240 million in a venture with the Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), the parent of MobiFone before the duo were split in 2014. The investment by the Australian carrier had helped VNPT build satellite infrastructure.

Telstra could turn out to be formidable competitor to any of the companies vying for a strategic stake in MobiFone, as the Australian telecoms major seeks to re-enter the Southeast Asian market. Telstra was also the first overseas firm to take part in the Vietnamese telecommunications space. In addition, it is among the larger operators globally with revenues of about $26.6 billion last year.

DEALSTRETASIA has learnt that Han Kotterman, Telstra’s international COO, had met with Vietnam’s Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan in May to discuss the possibility of the company picking up a stake in Mobifone. The development comes as Vietnam is pressing ahead with the stalled privatisation of the company, and plans to list Mobifone before the year-end.

Earlier in 2007, two years after Comviq had withdrawn from the Vietnam market, it had reportedly showed interest in acquiring a stake at MobiFone.

“After considering some criteria mapped out by the ministry, Comvik is entirely confident it has the ability to take a share of the cake when MobiFone is equitised (i.e privatised),” Marc Beuls, managing director of Comviq’s parent group told the Scandasia.com.

The media outlet also said Comviq had invested around $200 million into MobiFone during the 10 year period, and continued to spend $60 million in the mobile operator afterwards.

Meanwhile, Norway’s Telenor, a company with 202.8 million mobile phone subscribers and 8.5 billion pound revenue in 2015, is mulling Asia expansion. It was ranked as the 10th largest telecoms firm by subscribers by the GSMA Intelligence. In Southeast Asia, the company has gained a significant foothold in the Myanmar market, and it also has operations in Thailand and India.

Another potential bidder for MobiFone is Axiata, which had expressed its interest earlier this year.

Also read: Axiata eyes stake in Vietnam’s MobiFone

MobiFone is the second largest player, after Viettel, in the market hit 130 million mobile subscribers in 2015. Technically, foreign investors are allowed to own up to 49 per cent in a Vietnamese network operator.

While international investors expressed interest to own a major stake, Mobifone had earlier said it might sell 20 per cent to strategic foreign shareholders. In addition, VNPT is entitled to own as much as 20 per cent in its one-time subsidiary post the IPO.

While the details of how much shares to be offered or timeline of the initial public offer have not been revealed, a spokeperson from Mobifone told local press that the listing proposal was submitted to the local communications ministry, with expectation that the final announcement regarding the privatisation will be made in the third quarter of this year, and the IPO will take place by the end of this year or within the first half of 2017 at the latest.

According to industry estimates, if Mobifone were to sell 49% stake in the IPO, the telco may garner around VND20 trillion ($890 million).

The Vietnamese telco had earlier planned a listing in 2006, but had abandoned plans for privatisation despite several international operators including Singtel, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom (now Orange) and Vodafone, all registering their interests in bidding for the same.

Even as the listing plan is being finalised, Mobifone has been exiting its non-core business investments, including holdings in TPBank and SeABank. In January 2016, it diversified operation through acquiring a controlling stake at Audio Visual Global JSC, the owner of An Vien pay TV.

Also read:

Vietnam: MobiFone seeks to tap pay TV market, to acquire An Vien parent

Global telcos vie for stake in Vietnam’s MobiFone

Vietnam state-owned Viettel bets on global reach via M&A or telecom licence route

 

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.