Sunday, September 04, 2011

Thailand - Govt and Shin Sat are in continued debate over satellite commitments and costs

[the nation] However much it has tried, Intouch Group, formerly known as the Shin Corp group, cannot avoid the political spotlight for long.

The group still has many hot issues on which it has to deal with Yingluck Shinawatra's government, which could draw it into close public scrutiny.

On the latest issue, its satellite-operator flagship Thaicom will have to talk with the new Information and Communications Technology Ministry on the country's attempt to reserve the 120 degrees east and 50.5 degrees east longitude orbital slots before its reservation rights expire in January and October next year respectively.

The ICT Ministry in the previous government gave the nod to Thaicom to help seek ways to maintain the reservation rights.

Intouch executive chairman Somprasong Boonyachai said Thaicom was in talks with some foreign satellite operators for possible deals to buy their satellites and reposition them to maintain the country's right to reserve the slots.

"But Thaicom has to talk with the new government on many issues, such as who will pay the cost of buying and repositioning the two satellites, which parties will manage them, and whether the two new satellites will be included in Thaicom's concession," he said.

Thaicom also still has to talk with the ICT Ministry on the plan, which was acknowledged by the previous Cabinet, to rectify Thaicom's concession amendments by having it resume its original concession conditions.

As part of that move, Thaicom has to build a backup satellite for Thaicom 3, Intouch has to raise its stake in Thaicom to the original 51 per cent from the current 41 per cent, and Thaicom has to return US$6.7 million (Bt201 million) in insurance proceeds to the ministry.

The ministry will discuss with Thaicom what to do with iPSTAR, which was perceived as not part of its original concession.

Somprasong said Intouch had yet to promise to raise its stake in Thaicom to 51 per cent, as it has to consider all aspects of the matter, including the share price.

Somprasong has continued to affirm that the Intouch Group has never been involved in politics. According to its latest survey, the group is perceived less as politically associated firm when compared with 2006 and 2007. He said the result of the survey makes him feel more relaxed.

In an attempt to get rid of its image as a politically linked company, in April Shin changed its group corporate logo to "Intouch". Its securities-trading name was also changed from SHIN to INTUCH, and Shin Group was renamed Intouch Group.

Thaicom also appointed the former head of IBM Thailand, Suphajee Suthumpun, as its chief executive officer, replacing Arak Chonlatanon.

Suphajee, 47, took over Thaicom's office on August 1. She was even speculated to be the future successor of Somprasong as Intouch executive chair.

Before joining Thaicom, she held the positions of managing director of IBM Thailand and general manager of Global Technology Services Group, IBM Asean.

Somprasong said Suphajee was qualified to run Thaicom. She has well-rounded knowledge of management, finance, and international markets, and puts forth a professional executive image.

Somprasong said Thaicom's business had bright prospects, given that the iPSTAR utilisation rate is expected to surge to 50 per cent next year from about 26 per cent at the present.

Thaicom currently has a broadcasting satellite, Thaicom 5. and broadband satellite iPSTAR.

'Apolitical' Shin Corp successor in the spotlight

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