Decision delay by Thailand’s telecom regulator on the TRUE DTAC merger raises questions

Thailand’s telecom regulator (NBTC), has apparently decided to delay its decision on the TRUE DTAC merger

Thailand’s telecom regulator (NBTC), decision to extend its own deadline on the conclusion of the proposed merger between the country’s second and third largest telecom operators raise some questions.

The conclusion from the studies and public hearings regarding the proposed merger between the two telecom operators, TRUE and DTAC was due on the 10th of July – but no information, not even a website update on the matter (or extension), has been released from the NBTC.

Instead, information about an extension of up to 30 days (11th of August 2022) has been brought forward by anonymous sources at the NBTC, Telenor’s CEO and the House of Representatives’ Consumer Protection Commission.

DTAC, who hasn’t been very active sharing information about the merger since the official announcement – nor in the participation of the public hearings, held a press conference in Bangkok in the beginning of the month – or its’ owner, Telenor did.

At the press conference, Telenor CEO, Sigve Brekke revealed that the regulator should give its final decision by the end of this month, adding that he had a meeting set with the NBTC to iron out any wrinkles and clarify DTAC’s position.

At the House of Representatives’ Consumer Protection Commission meeting, on the 6th of July, a representative from the NBTC, asked for more time to consider the TRUE DTAC merger deal, but the Consumer Protection commission noted that a delay by the NBTC, would be a dereliction of duty, as there has been no answer to the public so far.

A week later (12th of July), a source at the NBTC, who requested anonymity, said that the four subcommittees, setup by the NBTC to study the proposed merger and impacts, had finished their study and analysis papers concerning their respective fields.

Yet here we are today, on the 18th of July and still no official answers or information.

There was however, another very interesting part from the anonymous source close to the regulator’s board. At least two of the four subcommittees had voted against the TRUE DTAC merger deal.

The two voting against the merger was the Legal and the Consumer Protection subcommittee panels. The two other panels (Technology and Economics) did not conduct a voting but asserted the impact.

The Legal subcommittee panel voted 10-1 against the merger and the Consumer Protection panel voted 6-2 against the merger with two abstentions. The Economic subcommittee panel did not vote, as the panel was led by commissioner Suphat Supachalasai, who has the power on the board to decide the fate of the merger, the source told Bangkok Post.

The NTBC board then discussed and concluded that yet another subcommittee, this time on “Trade Competition”, will be appointed, in addition to the previous four subcommittees – to study and analyze the impact.

“The Board considers that there must be a consensus on whether this deal should be passed or not. By now, the voting of the subcommittees is equal at 2 to 2. Therefore, another subcommittee on Trade Competition,” said the source from the NBTC board.

10 Questions:
  1. How come Telenor’s CEO, Sigve Brekke, was already aware of (on the 4th of July), that NBTC “should give its final decision by the end of this month” and not on the 10th of July as public stated?
  2. Apart from hearsay and that we haven’t seen nor heard any results, is there, and if so, where is the public information about the decision delay and reasoning for it?
  3. If there is an official delay, when and by whom was this decision made? i.e. Was it made before or after, knowing that two of the sub committee panels voted no?
  4. When and by whom was the decision made to add yet another sub-committee (“Trade Competition”)?
  5. Wouldn’t “Trade Competition” be under the Office of Trade Competition Commission (OTCC)?
  6. Will the House of Representatives’ Consumer Protection Commission, follow up on its statement – that such delay is a dereliction of duty?
  7. Where is the information from NBTC (time, place, participants), about the meeting with Telenor’s CEO, Sigve Brekke “to iron out any wrinkles and clarify DTAC’s position”?
  8. Will there be a minutes of meeting for transparency and public interest from that meeting?
  9. Will there also be a meeting with a representative from TRUE to “iron out any wrinkles and clarify TRUE’s position”?
  10. Has NBTC raised a Statement of Issues (SOI) with concerns about market competition and issues that would arise from the proposed merger and asked TRUE DTAC to submit possible remedy and undertaking proposals to it?


UPDATE 23rd July

On the 22nd of July, the secretary general of the NBTC, finally issued a press release with official information – coincidentally on the very same day True and Dtac held its press meeting.

In the press release it says:

According to news reports, that 4 sub-committees appointed by the NBTC, to study the merger request between True Corporation Public Company Limited and Total Access Communication Public Company Limited has voted against this merger 3 : 1, with the subcommittees “Consumer Protection and Civil Rights”, “Economics” and “Technology” disagreeing with the merger, while the Legal Subcommittee agrees –  the Office of the NBTC would like to inform you that such news does not correspond to the facts.

All four subcommittees are still in the process of collecting data from the information provided from the meetings of the four sub-committees.

Recently, the Office of the NBTC has proposed to the NBTC board to extend the timeline because the information could not be prepared for the report in time.

It was therefore agreed at the NBTC meeting No. 18/2565 on 18 July 2022 to extend the period for preparing the report on the merger until 3 August 2022, as suggested by the Office of the NBTC.

In the meantime, the Office of the NBTC is collecting the opinion reports of the four sub-committees, as well as the opinions of the advisors, to prepare the office’s opinion reports to be proposed to the NBTC at the meeting on August 3, 2022,” said Trairat Wiriyasirikul, acting secretary-general of the NBTC.

This answers question 2 and 3 but not the other questions raised above.

Interestingly, the NBTC meeting was held on 18 July 2022, yet no information to the public until the 22nd of July with the above press release from the acting secretary general, posted on very same day as TRUE and DTAC held their press conference and send letters to the stock exchange of Thailand with the subject “Clarification of false news on the amalgamation” quoting him.

Author: Allan Rasmussen
Managing director at Yozzo. Allan is a MVNA/MVNE/MVNO specialist with hands-on experience from more than 60 projects in both competitive and greenfield markets. His expertise includes business case development, execution, launch and growth strategies. Advisor and consultant to mobile network operators, MVNA, MVNE, MVNO, National Regulatory Authorities, Government Agencies, Broadcast Companies, TMT Industry Associations, Innovation and Investment Banks.
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