Thai operator assured of 3G license in S'pore deal?

Media reports suggest Singapore's Temasek Holdings made 3G license a prerequisite in its Shin Corp investment, hinting that mobile operator AIS will be awarded a license in Thailand.

SINGAPORE--Temasek Holdings reportedly made 3G license a must-have component in its recent investment deal with Thailand's Shin Corp inked earlier this week.

According to Thai media reports, Singapore's Temasek had made 3G licenses a condition for coughing out US$1.87 billion to buy 1,487.7 million shares from Shin Corp.'s Shinawatra and Damapong families.

Shin Corp holds a 42.8 percent stake in mobile operator Advanced Info Service (AIS), which is reportedly required to have a 3G license before Temasek agreed to the investment deal. Temasek, with a 63 percent share, is a majority shareholder in Singapore's largest telco SingTel, which also has a 21 percent stake in AIS.

Thai telecoms regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission, plans to issue 3G licenses to the country's operators this year. However, the NTC has not decided on how the licenses will be awarded, and to which operators they will be awarded, the commission's chairman, Choochart Promprasit, told the Bangkok Post.

He denied suggestions that AIS has already been assured of a 3G license as a result of the Temasek-Shin agreement and the supposed stipulation made by the Singapore company.

Choochart added that the NTC is likely to issue 3G licenses either through an auction process, or an evaluation of each telco's merits.

A spokesperson for Temasek told ZDNet Asia that the Singapore government investment company does not comment on market speculation, and she declined to confirm or deny if the reports were true. Shin Corp. did not reply to queries at press time.

Analysts from Gartner noted that Temasek's Shin Corp investment will help boost SingTel's regional operations.