Vincent Tan: U Mobile is not for sale


U Mobile not for sale, says Tan

KYOTO, JAPAN: BERJAYA Group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan has ruled out selling U Mobile Sdn Bhd, Malaysia’s fourth-placed mobile network operator, which recorded RM1.43 billion revenue last year. Responding to market talk about a possible sale, Tan, who holds 6.2 per cent stake in the seven-year-old U Mobile, said he and other shareholders planned to keep the company for the long term.

“There are a lot of rumours that we want to sell. Selling the business is very simple. If somebody makes you an offer that you can’t refuse, (of course) you would sell. “If you buy something for RM300, and after three to five years it is worth RM600, RM700 or RM900, you have to think carefully and seriously consider to sell. If you make money why not? That is business,” said Tan.

The major shareholder of U Mobile is Straits Mobile Investments Pte Ltd (49 per cent), followed by U Telemedia Sdn Bhd (21.46 per cent), Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar (15 per cent), Magnum Bhd (6.33 per cent) and Berjaya Infrastructure Sdn Bhd (2.01 per cent). U Mobile is Malaysia’s fastest- growing full-fledged mobile operator that offers data, voice and messaging services via innovative prepaid, postpaid and broadband plans. In less than five years, the company has grown its subscriber base from less than 50,000 to over four million through its market-leading product innovation and value proposition.

Tan plans to grow the business and aims to replace either Maxis or Digi as the country’s second or third largest telco in the near future. “It is achievable given that U Mobile has a fair share in the telco market,” said Tan after the official opening of the Four Seasons Hotel & Hotel Residences, here, last week.

U Mobile took the market by surprise when it was offered a big chunk of the 900 MHz spectrum by the government. “The government has been very fair. Because of our challenger status where we brought prices down, the government loves it and they have given us a fair share of the spectrum. “In fact, we think the government should give us more share of the spectrum as we are helping to bring prices down.

The bigger players consider us a threat in the market but we are here to help people. “They fear us because each time they drop prices, we will drop ours further. Our aim is to continue to offer the lowest price in the market and win more customers,” said Tan. Tan said U Mobile is still in the red and he anticipates that the company will be profitable in the next one to two years. “We are not profitable currently but we are going to do well. We are still investing in the business. With more spectrum we can cover a bigger area and be more competitive. “Fortunately for us, we have a strong partner, which is a subsidiary of Singapore’s Temasek Holdings,” he said.

U Mobile is here to stay in Malaysian hands. But unless their Malaysian shareholders decided to sell off their stake to foreigners. With the advent of the depreciating Ringgit, let’s face it, only foreigners have the money to buy whatever assets Malaysians have over here.

But having a Singaporean counterpart to pick up our slack is such a nervy venture. Who knows, maybe SingTel will finally have its subsidiary in our local market.

Another piece of news that could peak the local interests is this:

“Maxis is marginally the market leader with 12.1 million connections, or a 28.8 per cent share, with Digi a very close second with 12 million connections (28.5 per cent share) and Celcom Axiata third with 11.2 million connections (26.7 per cent share)”

U Mobile can very well position themselves to be in the top three by next year. Why not? They have deep pockets and a white knight on standby mode. Digi and Celcom will have to watch their backs very carefully.