Investors reacted positively to the latest quarterly results from Advanced Info Service (AIS), Thailand’s largest mobile operator, despite a drop in revenue and uncertainty over the country’s long-awaited 3G auctions. According to a Reuters report, AIS reported a 7.7 percent fall in third-quarter earnings today as a weak economy hit revenue, but beat analysts’ forecasts. The operator reported net profit for the quarter of THB4.18 billion (US$125 million), down from THB4.53 billion a year earlier. Analysts in a Reuters survey had forecast earnings of THB3.9 billion on average. AIS added a net 380,000 new subscribers in the quarter, down from 809,000 a year earlier but up from 320,000 in the previous quarter, to reach 28.3 million in total. Reuters notes that AIS – Thailand’s fifth-largest listed company – is seen as safe stock by analysts, which have otherwise been cautious on the country’s telecoms sector due to the delay in the 3G auctions. “An auction is expected within the first quarter of 2010,” AIS said in a statement.
Thailand’s long-awaited 3G auctions were dealt another blow last week when the Thai government confirmed it was to push back the process yet again to start in February (from a previous start date of mid-December). The latest delay is related to confusion over whether the country’s regulator – the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) – has the legal authority to conduct the auction. In October, the NTC said it would start the auction at THB4.6 billion (US$138 million) for each of the three licences of 10MHz bandwidth and THB5.2 billion (US$156 million) for one license of 15MHz. The country’s three largest mobile operators – AIS, DTAC and True Move – are all expected to bid for licenses, while the fourth license is available for a new market entrant. The auction is expected to raise around US$1.2 billion in total.