ICT: ShinSat's concessions could be revoked

Shin Satellite's concessions with the state could be revoked if Temasek Holdings is found to have used illegal nominees to buy telecoms giant Shin Corp last year, Information and Communications Technology Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom said yesterday. Dr Sitthichai said Shin's contracts could be voided if holding vehicle Kularb Kaew acted as an illegal nominee for Temasek to break foreign shareholding limits.

The ICT Ministry would propose that the cabinet set up a special committee to consider the options.

''A buyout is just an idea at this stage. What needs to be considered is whether [the government] will buy Shin Corp or Shin Satellite,'' Dr Sitthichai said.

''If it is Shin Corp, then the money required would be upwards of 100 billion baht, but for Shin Satellite, perhaps just 10 billion. [State-owned] TOT Corp or CAT Telecom could be the buyers and operators afterwards.''

Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, head of the Council for National Security, said last week the satellites were ''national assets'' that should be held by Thais.

Shin Satellite controls four satellites, including iPSTAR, the world's largest broadband satellite. The satellites are state property and operated by Shin Satellite under 30-year contracts expiring in 2021.

Dr Sitthichai said the government could not just cite national security to revoke Shin Satellite's concessions.

But the ICT Ministry could offer new satellite concessions to a new operator, or refuse to extend the current contract due to the ambiguity of Shin Satellite's shareholding structure, he said. Five operators have already shown an interest in applying for licences, he added.

A Shin Corp executive said the government should consider that Shin Satellite was heavily indebted to creditors, including the US Export Bank and France's Coface.

''Singapore probably is the smallest shareholder here, followed by the 16,000 Thai investors who control the remaining 59% after Shin,'' the executive said.

''Shin Satellite's equity is not even 10 billion baht, while the debt is over twice as much. If any problems occur, Thailand won't have a problem only with Singapore, but with the US and France as well.''

Shin Satellite said it has paid 3.69 billion baht to the state since its 1991 founding.

While the legal grounds for seizing Shin Satellite are questionable, the political risks have soared following recent signals from policymakers, analysts say.

From : bkk post
By : PLA
Date : Feb 20, 2007

 
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