The Malaysian partner of Tri Cellular Communication Cambodia Co has informed the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications that it likely will hand over the company’s mobile phone network to the government by the end of the year, officials said.
Koy Kim Sea, the ministry’s undersecretary of state, confirmed Wednesday that Kuala Lumpur-based Technology Research Industry Berhad recently notified the ministry of the plan to hand over the network system.
A top official of TriCelcam confirmed Wednesday morning the Malaysian partner is dropping out of the joint venture and the company’s assets will be transferred over to the ministry unless a new partner can be found.
But on Wednesday evening, Kong Seng, vice chairman of the TriCelcam Board of Directors, backed off his earlier statement and said that a final decision hadn’t been made. Technology Research Industry Berhad owns 70 percent of the company’s shares; the rest by the ministry.
Officials said the two parties would have to negotiate financial issues before any transfer. Government officials said TriCelcam owes at least $2.3 million in debts to the ministry and $2 million to the Malaysian partner.
TriCelcam, which uses the 017 prefix, was Cambodia’s first mobile phone company, established in February 1993. It had more than 5,000 customers at its peak, but the number has declined to some 2,000 in recent months, officials said, partly because its analog system is not as competitive as digital systems.
Last month the company notified the ministry it had opted not to invest in upgrading its network system to digital.
Long Van Han, another undersecretary of state who attended the Malaysian company’s annual meeting early this month, said that the discussions at the Kuala Lumpur meeting centered around the issue of stopping operations in Cambodia.
“Financial problems of the parent company is a main issue and there are other matters, too,” Long Van Han said. He said the Malaysia side pointed to too many mobile phone operators competing in Cambodia’s small market. Also, TriCelcam would need to comply with Y2K within two months to continue to operate here.
“Everything is up to Malaysia,” he said. “We’ll get further information on TriCelcam from Malaysia in the beginning of November.”
Meanwhile, TriCelcam has issued a recommendation letter to its 68 employees to help them find a new job, staff members say. The company also has promised employees a severance package according to the Cambodian labor law, a senior official said.