MobiTel and French Telecom Edge Nearer to Deal

Negotiations between mobile telephone operator MobiTel and France Telecom are in their final stages, the French Embassy said in a statement yesterday to mark the end of a visit by French Secretary of State for Commerce Pierre Lellouche.

Mr Lellouche arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday for a two day visit during which he met with Cabinet Minister Sok An, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong and Finance Minister Keat Chhon.

“The Secretary of State expressed the interest of the French authorities toward the negotiations between the companies MobiTel and France Telecom, which are entering into a decisive phase,” the statement said.

MobiTel’s CEO David Spriggs declined to comment on the status of any negotiations with the French telecommunications giant.

MobiTel’s owner Royal Group last month signed a loan deal with the Bank of China worth $591 million to be used to refinance debt from his company’s $346 million buyout last year of Luxembourg’s Millicom International Cellular, a former MobiTel stakeholder, and the $100 million loan it received from the International Finance Corporation in 2008.

Those in the telecommunications sector have said that the entry of France Telecom into the Cambodian market would likely put pressure on some of the smaller players in the industry, two of which decided to merge this week in order to try and retain their competitiveness.

According to the statement, Mr Lellouche was “delighted” by the progress made in talks between Cambodia and Thailand toward a solution over the ownership of the 27,000-square-kilometer overlapping claims area in the Gulf of Thailand where French oil giant Total has acquired an exploration license.

He also spoke with Cambodian officials about the ongoing negotiations between French commodity firm Sucden and Mong Reththy Group, according to the statement.

Mok Cham Sothea, vice president of Mong Reththy Group, said that negotiations over a deal “in the agricultural sector” were still being played out.

“We haven’t yet signed the contract,” he said. “We are still at the stage of confidentiality.”


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