Mfone’s License Revoked; Staff Terminated

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has revoked the operating license of bankrupt phone operator Mfone, which went out of business two months ago, while more than 1,000 employees had their jobs officially terminated Thursday.

The revocation of the license and the mass dismissal of staff help clear the way for the government-appointed administrator, Ouk Ry, to dissolve the company’s assets and repay some of the company’s debts, which are believed to top $160 million.

“The Telecom Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) issued an announcement on March 18, signed by deputy director Lay Marivo, to revoke Mfone’s license,” said Khan Sereyvuthy, a legal adviser working with Mr. Ry. 

A copy of the TRC notice, obtained Thursday, also states that Mfone owes the Ministry of Te­lecommunications $743,322.

Lay Marivo, TRC’s deputy director, said of the debt: “It’s our money. We need to take this money back.”

On the second floor of Mfone’s shuttered offices on Monivong Boulevard yesterday, Mr. Sereyvuthy and Mr. Ry met with representatives of the company’s more than 1,000 employees to inform them that the ministry had revoked the company’s license and that their jobs had officially ended.

“We needed to tell them their jobs have been terminated and help them find a resolution for their severance pay,” Mr. Ry said after the meeting. “Now, they ask about compensation. But this is a bankrupt company, so where do you get the money?”

Mr. Ry said Thursday that Mfone’s assets are valued at about $107 million and that creditors so far had claimed more than $160 million.

“When a company like this files for bankruptcy, creditors can’t ex­pect to get all the money back that they claim. You hope to get as much as you can,” he said. “Right now, we can’t sell any assets, so we can’t pay anyone. They will get what they’re entitled to under the law.”

Nim Solyda, a former engineering supervisor at Mfone and the employee’s representative, said the employees filed a claim earlier this month for about $4.4 million in compensation for 1,092 workers.

“The labor law states that even though the company is bankrupt, they must still pay compensation,” he said.

At the back entrance of Mfone’s offices, a small group of employees gathered to hear the results of yesterday’s meeting.

“We will hold a protest against the ministry if the license is really revoked,” said Ma Chhoeun, 64, a former administrative staffer.

Two of Mfone’s largest creditors are Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies and Norwegian energy company Eltek, who claim a total of $68.73 million in debts from Mfone.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court had issued injunctions on behalf of both companies, and on Monday, the two firms discussed dropping their injunctions in order to allow Mr. Ry, the administrator, to dispose of Mfone’s assets quickly in order to pay off the company’s debts.

Mr. Ry declined to say if the companies had decided yet to drop their injunctions.

“On this topic, I cannot comment,” he said, adding that another meeting among creditors is scheduled for April 8.

“We are now just doing our job to get things done. We’re setting up creditor committees, looking for a buyer and preparing the assets,” he added.

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