Thailand May Revise Operating Concessions for Telecom Companies

Thailand's government will revise the telecommunication contracts of any companies that breach foreign ownership laws, and hasn't ruled out prosecuting them, said Information & Communication Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom.

``We will not cancel their concession contracts as that will upset the industry,'' Sitthichai said by phone from Bangkok today. ``But we will alter the contracts to make them right.''

Investments by Singapore's Temasek Holdings Pte and Norway's Telenor ASA are being reviewed to determine whether they exceed Thailand's 49 percent foreign ownership cap for telecommunications. Temasek controls Advanced Info Service Pcl (ADVANC), Thailand's biggest mobile-phone company, and Telenor owns Total Access Communication Pcl (DTAC), the second biggest.

The ministry will adjust concessions after Thailand's Council of State, the government's legal advisory body, delivers its opinion on where companies are non-compliant, Sitthichai said. A ruling is expected as early as this month, he said.

Telecom concessions, including that of True Corp., will also be revised because they were awarded without Cabinet approval, Sitthichai said.

A Temasek-led group bought Shin Corp. last year from investors including the family of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, giving it control of assets including Advanced Info.

Telenor, Norway's biggest telecom company, controls Total Access through direct and indirect holdings.

Sitthichai also clarified a May 1 Wall Street Journal report that said Temasek won't be prosecuted if it is shown to have broken foreign-ownership laws in the purchase of Shin Corp.

``I said our ministry doesn't have a legal role in that, but other related agencies are still working on this issue,'' Sitthichai said today. ``When it's clear they have breached the law, they will need to pare their stakes in the telecom units.''

Temasek, in an e-mailed statement, declined to comment.

Thailand's government is ``still investigating'' whether Temasek breached foreign-ownership laws, Sitthichai said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at Suttinee1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Jordan at tjordan3@bloomberg.net

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