The assets of bankrupt mobile operator Mfone, which owes creditors more than $160 million, have been sold to a single buyer for the bargain price of $10 million, a lawyer involved with the case said Monday.
Khan Sereyvuthy, a legal adviser to the government-appointed administrator handling Mfone’s liquidation, said that the company’s assets were sold on August 4 for a fraction of their estimated $107 million value to the recently registered company Khmer Unified Network Communication Ltd., which is owned by Chinese businessman Khao Yun Dy’s Khmer Holding Group.
The buyer has so far paid $2.5 million in two installments, $1 million of which has been used to cover 30 percent of the outstanding wages owed to 1,092 former Mfone employees, who until Monday had only received 10 percent of what they were owed.
“We have to pay the employees first, because in accordance with the Labor Law their severance pay must get priority, so this payment brings our repayment [to former employees] to 40 percent,” he said, adding that another $1 million would be paid to cover unpaid rental costs for 1,040 antenna locations.
“Once the employees are fully paid, the rest of the money [$10 million] will be paid to our creditors,” he said.
Ever since Mfone announced bankruptcy last year, creditors including the Chinese technology firm Huawei and Norway’s Eltek, an energy company, have filed an injunction at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to freeze Mfone’s assets and obtain the money it is owed for installing communications technology.
Mfone is also owed $787,000 by five telecommunications companies in unpaid fees for services rendered. Mr. Sereyvuthy said that legal action to reclaim the debts was underway.
“We have already filed complaints with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Metfone and Royal International Telecom in the past month, and we will file against the two other companies [Cootel and Wing-Cambodia] this week,” he said.
Eltek, which is owed $5 million including legal fees and is Mfone’s second-largest creditor, Monday called on all the bankrupt creditors to carry out an audit of the asset sale because of the huge discrepancy between their valuation and bargain sale price.
“I welcome the sale of the assets, but they need to be audited because the sale is so different from the book-value price,” said Kuoy Thunna, Eltek’s lawyer in Cambodia, who also questioned why the administrator did not inform Eltek representatives of the August 4 sale during their meeting on September 19.
Mfone’s former asset manager, Phan Doeun, confirmed Monday that he had received the latest 30 percent payment toward his total severance pay.
“I received payment today, and I hope now that the administrator will pay employees the rest of the amount soon,” he said.