Regional operator Singtel is considering acquiring a stake in Vietnam’s second largest operator Mobifone, which has been slated for privatisation for more than a year.
According to the Vietnam Economic Times, a Singtel representative met with the country’s Deputy Minister of Information and Communication last week about a possible partnership.
Singtel is Singapore’s largest mobile player and also has stakes in operators across Asia. Its partners include Optus in Australia, Telkomsel in Indonesia, AIS in Thailand, Bharti Airtel in India and Globe Telecom in the Philippines.
Last week it announced plans to increase its stakes in AIS and Airtel – the largest mobile operators in Thailand and India – with an investment of SGD2.47 ($1.84 billion). Singtel has been looking to expand in emerging markets as growth has slowed in its two main markets – Singapore and Australia.
This is not Singtel’s first overture for the Vietnamese operator. Ten years ago Singtel, along with Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom (now Orange) and Vodafone, showed interest but the plan for an IPO was soon cancelled.
In early June Australia’s largest operator Telstra reportedly expressed interest in Mobifone and also held talks with the Minister of Information and Communications.
In addition to Singtel and Telstra, a number of regional players have said they are keen to move into Vietnam. Axiata expressed interest in Mobifone in January 2015, a few months after Norway’s Telenor and Comvik International Vietnam informed the ministry of their interests in taking a controlling stake.
Mobifone operates under the Ministry of Information and Communications, after separating from VNPT, another state-owned operator, in June 2014. It was required to submit an IPO plan by the end of 2014, but its long-awaited privatisation plans have stalled.
The government is now pushing to privatise a number of state-owned enterprises, including Mobifone. A foreign investor can take up to a 49 per cent stake in Mobifone when it goes public.
Earlier this month VNPT proposed that the government allow it to hold a 20 per cent stake in Mobifone after an IPO, VN Express reported.