Thailand’s largest private power producer Gulf Energy Development has entered the country’s telco sector.
In a tender offer that closed on Wednesday, Gulf Energy secured subscriptions for 747 million shares, or 23.3 per cent of all issued shares in InTouch, which itself is a major shareholder of Thailand’s largest mobile telco giant.
When the deal is completed on August 11, Gulf Energy will have a 42.2 per cent stake in InTouch, up from its previous 18.9 per cent share. InTouch has a significant presence in Thailand’s telecom industry, as it has a 40 per cent stake in leading mobile operator Advanced Info Service (AIS). It also holds 41 per cent of satellite operator Thaicom.
Singapore’s Singtel holds a 21 per cent stake in InTouch.
Gulf Energy is owned by billionaire Sarath Ratnavadi, who has business interests ranging from power to motorways and an LNG terminal in Rayong Province.
According to Forbes, Ratnavadi owned assets with a net worth of $8.8 billion as of July, making him Thailand’s fifth-richest man.
In April, the company said it is ready to apply for a short-term bridge loan of 150 billion baht from local and international financial institutions to fund the share purchase of InTouch. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra originally founded InTouch as Shin Corp. The telco holding company was sold to Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings in 2006. Thai regulations required that Gulf Energy also make an offer to acquire AIS, as its stake in the company was expected to surpass the 25 per cent threshold as a result of the InTouch deal.
Thailand’s cloud and data center market is on the verge of greatness; the country holds great digital potential as the second-largest economy in ASEAN.
In 2021, the Thai government has committed to expanding its digital infrastructure and ICT capacities nationwide, with the hopes of establishing it as a digital hub that can compete with the likes of neighbouring countries Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.
As more of Thailand’s population goes online, broadband quality and energy sustainability become increasingly challenging. The country’s strategic position geographically has piqued the interest of many tech giants already operating throughout Southeast Asia, who expect that investment in Thailand’s cloud and data centre industries will deliver favourable ROI’s in the years to come.
Identifying 5G networks as one of its core growth pillars, Thailand’s telecom operator True Corporation is set to spend 40 – 60 billion baht (about $1,2 – $1,9 billion) in the next three to five years.