ICT ministry hopes to resolve Thaicom case soon
The Information and Communication Technology Ministry is hoping to find a solution within this month to the problem Thaicom is facing in connection to the Supreme Court's decision to seize assets belonging to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in February 2010.This move follows a reply to the ICT ministry's concerns from the Office of Attorney General (OAG) in November last year that Thaicom's use of insurance funds gained from a Thaicom 3 satellite glitch and the Supreme Court's ruling on Thaksin had nothing to do with each other.
Chaiyan Peungkiatpairote, permanent secretary of the ICT Ministry, said he would hold a meeting this month with a state-private joint committee, created under Article 22 of the Public-Private Joint Venture Act, to discuss the implications of OAG's report. The meeting's results will then be forwarded to ICT Minister Anudith Nakornthap for his consideration.
Chaiyan said that besides this insurance case, he will also find out what Thaicom and its parent InTouch should do in other cases in connection to the Supreme Court's ruling in Thaksin's case. The court's verdict cited many actions showing that Thaksin had abused his power as prime minister to benefit his telecom empire.
As part of the court's verdict, Thaicom appeared to violate its concession when it used US$6.7 million (Bt203 million) of the $33 million it won in insurance claims to lease transponders from foreign satellite operators to serve customers while Thaicom 3 was suffering a glitch. According to law, the entire amount from the insurance claim should have been given to the Transport Ministry, which was in charge of the satellite's concession at the time. It should have also used the money to build a new satellite to replace Thaicom 3. The ICT Ministry at the time also approved the use of $6.7 million from the insurance claim to lease transponders. Later, Thaicom used the remainder of the insurance compensation to partially fund the building of Thaicom 5, which was launched in May 2006. The cost to construct Thaicom 5 and its launch totalled $107 million.
The incumbent ICT Ministry has asked the OAG how it should proceed with this case and the OAG has replied that the court verdict in Thaksin's case was based on the anti-corruption law and had nothing to do with the duty and rights of the concession contract. Concessions come under civil and administrative laws it said. Moreover, the ruling does not oblige the ministry to demand such insurance claims from Thaicom.
Under the Budgetary Procedure Act of 1959, all monies received by government agencies shall be delivered to the Finance Ministry. The ICT Ministry is a co-beneficiary of the insurance proceeds according to the policy.
In a separate matter, Thaicom has signed a tri-party framework agreement for IPSTAR satellite's bandwidth capacity sale in China. The agreement outlines the structure of the deal and the main elements of the Definitive Agreement and other related agreements, the details of which are to be finalised in the following months.
Under the agreement, Thaicom - with cooperation from its official partner in China, CTS - will sell all of its IPSTAR broadband satellite's capacity available for China to Synertone and will also be entitled for revenue sharing from bandwidth sales of Synertone in China. In addition, Thaicom will also have an equity stake in Synertone to strengthen the business partnership in the Chinese market.
The availability of IPSTAR satellite's capacity in the Chinese market is approximately 24 per cent of its total capacity.
"China is an important market for Thaicom, and I am pleased that Thaicom and our partners have achieved this key milestone with IPSTAR in China," said Thaicom chief executive officer Suphajee Suthumpun.
"The sale of IPSTAR bandwidth in China will provide a wide range of benefits for all parties. Obviously, for Thaicom it means that we will have reached one of our most important goals. With capacity utilisation in China, we have gone far beyond the breakeven point of IPSTAR," Suphajee explained.
Thaicom share price yesterday closed at Bt25.25, up 9.31 per cent.