A Swedish CEO has expressed interest in MobiFone as the dominant state telecom firm prepares to begin offering shares to private investors, according to government sources.
Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon Online cited sources from the Ministry of Information and Communication as confirming that the prepaid mobile phone company Comvik intended to buy into the firm.
Comvik cooperated with Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Group (VNPT) to develop the country’s first mobile network MobiFone between 1990 and 2005
M. A. Zaman, President and CEO of Comvik International Vietnam AB, reportedly met with Vice Minister Le Nam Thang to express his plan to invest in Vietnam -- specifically in MobiFone.
MobiFone, officially known as the Mobile Telecommunication Services Co., and its sister VinaPhone from VNPT and military-run Viettel currently hold more than 95 percent of the local telecommunications market.
The MobiFone project reportedly made Vietnam one of Comvik's three highest-grossing markets.
Zaman said his company’s familiarity with MobiFone and Vietnam’s telecom environment will ensure a more successful partnership than MobiFone would have had with other foreign partners.
Many foreign telecom giants, including the UK's Vodafone, France Telecom, Telenor and Singapore's Singtel have opened offices in Vietnam since 2006 hoping for the chance to partner with MobiFone.
Mai Van Binh, MobiFone chairman, said he and his staff are rushing to complete their privatization plan within the third quarter this year.
Binh said he has been instructed by the ministry to set aside a maximum of 20 percent of shares for VNPT.
Pham Hong Hai, head of the ministry's Telecommunication Department did not reveal the specific foreign ownership ratio planned for MobiFone.
Instead, he noted that Vietnam committed to offering foreign investors up to a 49 percent ownership in infrastructure (including telecommunication) businesses when it joined the World Trade Organization.
Vice Minister Thang said Vietnam's telecom market will need the kind of funding and experience that foreign investors offer to complete several major technology upgrades and branch out into the global market.