AIS to buy 3BB, plus a stake in JASIF, to bolster NewCo defenses

AIS to buy
Image by Tzido | Bigstockphoto

As Dtac and True prepare to merge and create a joint entity that will have a majority market share in Thailand, AIS is making moves to stay ahead of the competition by acquiring local ISP Triple T Broadband (TTTBB, branded as 3BB).

According to Nikkei Asia, AIS will buy a 99.87% stake in 3BB for 19.5 billion baht ($546.3 million). The Bangkok Post reports that the deal would make AIS the second biggest ISP in the market with 4.3 million subscribers, not too far behind True, which has 4.7 million subscribers.

AIS will also spend an additional 12.9 billion baht to acquire 19% of Jasmine Broadband Internet Infrastructure Fund (JASIF), which would give the operator access to access JASIF’s optical fiber network, which spans 1.7 million core kilometres, including rural areas.

AIS chief finance officer Tee Seeumpornroj said the moves will not only help expand AIS’ customer base as well as its footprint in the broadband market, but also offer more competitive broadband internet packages as part of the company’s strategy to focus on 5G infrastructure buildout.

“This [latest] acquisition will enhance consumer access to a broader and better quality of service by improving broadband inclusion in new areas targeting the [northern parts of the country] and non-city areas,” he said in a statement on Monday.

Tee added that the Office of The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is expected to approve the acquisition by the first quarter of 2023, when it will also be completed.

Dtac and True are currently preparing to merge in order to better compete with AIS in the market. NewCo, as the joint entity will be called, will have a majority market share in Thailand.

With the merger, NewCo will have a combined customer base of 95.3 million subscribers, the largest mobile company in Thailand. This has raised the alarm bells for the NBTC, which has voiced its concerns about the potential duopoly that would be created as a result.

A supervisory authority has also called on the NBTC to stop the merger from taking place, out of interest to consumers. The outlook for the deal remains uncertain, but AIS is not waiting around to find out. AIS intends to maintain its position as the leading telecom company in Thailand with its latest acquisitions, and will continue to invest in 5G, according to AIS CEO Somchai Lertsutiwong.

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