Thai push for satellites may hasten Shin Corp overhaul
Thailand's push to take over the country's satellite business controlled by Shin Corp could speed up a corporate overhaul of the conglomerate's diverse assets.
For the past three months, a Temasek Holdings-led consortium that controls Shin Corp has been mulling over a restructuring plan that will turn it into a regional mobile telecommunications player.
According to financial executives familiar with the proposed corporate makeover, Shin Corp's push to focus on telecommunications will involve the sell-off of its other assets such as its satellite operation, a television broadcasting station and finance company.
The restructuring plan, which would also feature a name change for the group, was to be set in motion after the Temasek-led consortium resolved Shin Corp's legal troubles with the government.
Now, that timetable is likely to be brought forward following Thai army chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin's statement last week demanding that Temasek and its partners sell Shin Corp's 41 per cent interest in Shin Satellite back to the state.
Many Bangkok-based bankers, who had initially feared the possibility of nationalisation, say that the statement had the effect of helping lift the pall over Shin Corp, which has had trouble attracting suitable suitors for its assets.
'Temasek and its partners have always wanted to resolve the problems facing Shin. This is offering the shareholders a fresh opportunity,' says a Bangkok- based banker who is closely tracking developments at Shin Corp.
The sale last year by then Premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family of its stake in Shin Corp set off a political storm that led to his ouster and left Shin Corp's new owners under a cloud of political suspicion and legal problems.
But with General Sonthi's remarks about a sale, state agencies such as the Telephone Organisation of Thailand (TOT), and CAT Telecom have shown interest in buying Shin Satellite, along with Thailand's Samart Group, whose businesses include satellite-dish distribution.
Other potential suitors include investment holding companies Dragon One and Loxley, say several Bangkok-based investment analysts.
Temasek executives were unavailable for comment, but executives close to its Thai partners, which include Siam Commercial Bank and low-profile businessman Surin Upatkoon, acknowledge that the restructuring plans can now be speeded up.
Shin Satellite operates four satellites, including iPSTAR, which ranks as the world's largest broadband satellite. The company also has a large shareholding in CSLoxinfo, a leading Internet provider.
Several Bangkok-based bankers say that the sale of Shin Satellite could help Temasek and its partners find new investors for another problematic Shin investment, commercial broadcasting company iTV.
The company has been ordered by Thailand's Supreme Administrative Court to pay a concession fee of 2.12 billion baht (S$94.5 million) or risk losing its concession.
Bankers say that the Temasek-led consortium is currently holding informal talks with the Thai government to resolve the impasse over the concession fee.
Bankers close to Shin Corp say that the asset disposal plan will be capped with a change of name.
'Shin needs a re-branding, and a change of name will help shed the baggage the group is carrying,' says a financial executive close to Temasek's Thai partners.
by the Straits Times/Asia News Network