Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Preferential Treatment Or Discrimination

DIGI, Dubai Ports, Mittal Steel...

This was reported in Reuters 14/3/2006: "Norway's largest telecoms group Telenor will not reduce its stake in Malaysian subsidiary DiGi.Com, despite the disappointment of not winning a government 3G licence tender. DiGi, 61 percent owned by Telenor, is Malaysia's largest mobile phone operator without a 3G licence and had been a favourite to win one of the two tenders. ... Telenor dismissed rumours in Malaysia's media and markets that it would sell some of its shares in DiGi. ... The Malaysian government told DiGi it had lost out on the tender because of the high foreign ownership in the company. Telenor has expanded into emerging markets over the last few years and fully or partly owns mobile phone operators from its Nordic base, through eastern Europe to southeast Asia. ....Analysts said the Malaysian government's reasons and the fact that DiGi did not have a 3G licence would influence Telenor's long-term policy in the region... Malaysia has almost 17 million mobile phone subscribers, around 65 percent of the population, making it Southeast Asia's third most developed mobile market after Singapore and Brunei. "

Things like that happens in the business world. Get over it already. Look at how Dubai Ports got shafted just by its geographical location. Or how the Donald Trump-like Lakshmi Mittal's bid for Arcelor is being regarded and treated, mainly due to where he was from. For Mittal, sometimes buying the most expensive house in the most expensive area in London, and throwing the most lavish party would not even come close to buying you acceptance. Sometimes, its not just business alone.

As for the DIGI case, I was amazed at the clarity and frankness of Keng Yaik's explanation on why DIGI did not get the 3G license. Good on you, if you practiced discriminatory business decisions, be man enough to admit it. Don't try and cover it with some other altruistic reasons (like some). Having said that, is 3G really that important an asset for national interest purposes. I mean, I can understand if it was ONE or TWO licenses, but you issued more than that! I came across a funny excerpt today in The Star where Keng Yaik was at the launching of Radio-Frequency Identification Devices National Security Platform. Naturally he was questioned (again) on the 3G issue. To which he replied that the ministry was still being criticised over the matter. Touche... his frankness is certainly winning me over!

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