Thai mobile hopeful Jasmine International failed to pay the first installment for the 4G spectrum it won in December, which means the regulator will need to hold a replacement auction and the firm will forfeit its guarantee of THB644 million ($18.4 million).

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said it will meet tomorrow to determine how to respond to Jasmine missing the 21 March payment deadline.

NBTC said earlier if Jasmine forfeited, it would hold a replacement auction for the 900MHz block in about four months with a starting price of THB75.65 billion, which was Jasmine’s winning bid. In February it also threatened to cancel Jasmine’s fixed-line licence and hold it responsible for any auction re-run costs if it couldn’t pay on time. Under the auction rules, the company needs to compensate NBTC for THB160 million in operating expenses.

Jasmine last Friday reportedly had finally lined up financing from Bangkok Bank and said it would be able to meet the 21 March deadline. True made its payment in early March, but Jasmine ran into difficulty securing financing late last year after its international partners – believed to be SK Telecom, Temasek and Chunghwa Telecom — pulled out after the spectrum price went beyond fair value.

Jasmine’s subsidiary, Jas Mobile, and True Move each bid about THB76 billion ($2.1 billion) for 10MHz of 900MHz spectrum and had a 21 March deadline to pay 50 per cent of the reserve price of the spectrum and providing bank guarantees for the remaining amount to be paid in three installments until 2017.

No interest at that price
Market leader AIS, which won 1.8GHz spectrum in the November auction, and the country’s second largest operator dtac both said they would be interested in participating in a new auction for the 900MHz block, but they expressed concern about the starting price being set at the winning price of the December auction.

Dtac CEO Lars Norling said in a statement that if a new auction is held, the reserve price should be set at the original reserve price of THB16.08 billion.

If there is no interest in the 900MHz block in a replacement auction, the NBTC will need to push the sale back for a year or more. Such an outcome could prompt the other 900MHz winner, True, to argue that Jasmine artificially inflated the auction prices and that a new 900MHz auction should be held. Analysts say the NBTC is unlikely to agree to a new auction and will insist on the starting price of THB75.65 billion for Jasmine’s 900MHz block.