Telikom-Bmobile Merger On Track
by PNG Business News - October 11, 2021
Photo credit: The National
According to State Enterprises Minister William Duma, the Telikom-bmobile merger is on track, with a big announcement expected next month.
Duma said he couldn't talk about the merger yet since there were other parties involved and business agreements to think about. Prime Minister James Marape stated last month that the two companies will merge to become Telikom Ltd, a single retail telecoms business.
Meanwhile, Duma stated that the launch of Vodafone, the third telecoms provider, will be beneficial to the sector.
“We already have a third player, the new mobile company, Vodafone,” he said. Duma said Digicel presently enjoyed a lion’s share of the market at around 80 per cent but the arrival of a new competitor would ensure a competitive environment which would benefit the consumer.
“This is good for all of us, when there is competition, the prices are reduced, the quality is improved and the consumer, the ordinary people in PNG will benefit,” he said.
PNG is an emerging market with tremendous potential, according to Vodafone Fiji chief commercial director Ronald Prasad, as the country continues its transformation into a modern nation.
“It means more competition, overall improvement in product portfolios resulting in better service delivery, competitive pricing and of course new ways of doing things,” he said.
“The existing providers, bmobile, Telikom PNG, DataCo and Digicel PNG have done well in terms of expanding the infrastructure and investing in it and now with Vodafone coming onto the ground, you should expect more competition.” Prasad said.
Reference: Esila, Peter. The National (4 October 2021). “Telco Merger On Track: Duma”.
PNG Business News - September 20, 2021
Telikom Merger 85% Complete
Telikom PNG Ltd interim chief executive officer Amos Tepi said the Telikom-bmobile merger should be finalized by the end of the month. Tepi stated that the merger was roughly 85% complete. “We are just looking at the regulatory and legal aspects and once that is over, we are going over the line so we should meet the deadline,” he said. “It’s all progressing and about 85 per cent completed.” Communications and Information Technology minister Timothy Masiu previously stated the merging of bmobile and Telikom PNG into a single retail operator was critical as it would improve access in the country. “Legally speaking, merging bmobile and Telikom is a challenge because of the cross-collateralisation arrangements in place on assets,” Masiu said. “Technically speaking, the integration of two SOE (state-owned enterprise) mobile networks also has cost implications.” Masiu stated that, in light of the K1.6 billion loan obtained from China's Exim Bank to expand network coverage, as well as recent asset audits, the government was now prepared to consider investing in the merger – before considering any other options for the telecommunication state-owned enterprise's future. “After considering a wide range of reform options, merging is the best decision for the business and this will pave a way forward to a liberalised market.” The government spent five years ago in a nationwide broadband initiative that gave Telikom a converged 4G communications network. Following that, bmobile's RediSIM subscribers were able to experience 4GLTE network capabilities thanks to a phased upgrade that was completed this year. Kumul Telikom Holdings Limited (KTHL) made significant efforts to achieve the merger and consolidation of the mobile company as part of the Government's communications reform instructions to create a single mobile network. It is the final key component in KTHL's attempts to deliver competent, cost-effective, and competitive mobile communications. The Government's October 2019 state-owned enterprise reforms covered a number of critical business components, including improved governance and accountability. It also necessitated a stronger focus on achieving fundamental SOE goals, such as providing accessible, cheap, and dependable services while generating a reasonable return on investment. The KTHL mobile network integration was the company's first significant infrastructure expenditure in the previous three years. As part of the reform, the National Executive Council authorized the merger, and work began in 2018. Reference: Luma, Dale. The National (15 September 2021). “‘Telco merger 85pc complete’”
PNG Business News - April 19, 2021
Bekker Says Contract Reviews Are Important
According to PNG Power Ltd, renegotiation and reviews of current contracts with independent power producers (IPPs) make the business healthier and more competitive (PPL). PPL managing director Flagon Bekker made the statement in response to questions raised by IPP industry groups (IP3) about PPL unilaterally reviewing and renegotiating current contracts and contractually negotiated prices to supply electricity to the grid. IPPs, according to Bekker, must be adaptable enough to evolve as fiscal, technical, and environmental factors change with time. “We asked IPPs to respond to a survey late last year where we asked them for their suggestions and next steps in dealing with the current commercial status quo,” he said. “In fact, we offered four or five alternatives to renegotiation. None responded.” According to Bekker, analysis shows that in terms of pricing, spending, and the overall economy, it is best to keep IPPs' share of the total market minimal. “Egypt is the best example of countries that have kept IPPs to a smaller share of the total (market) and found it easier to weather macro-economic shock and have greater freedom in deciding where to source finance for power investment in the future,” he said. “The IPPs not only make the macroeconomy weaker, but they are also the cause of their own problems. “PPL is leading to change this. “IPPs should not resist. “They should partner by suggesting solutions for the future. “PPL will send the survey out again and we hope they respond this time.” According to Bekker, there was a lot of analysis and support focused on post-negotiation evaluations, which shows that the renegotiation process contributes to the discovery of lessons and eventually the execution of those lessons. “Off the top of my head, here is a list of countries that have renegotiated PPAs in full or in part over the years: Philippines, Brazil, India, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey, Poland, China (among others),” Bekker said.
PNG Business News - March 31, 2021
PNG Ports Explains Their Decision to Deal with Covid-19
COVID-19 had a major impact on Papua New Guinea's exports and port movement, but the PNG Ports Corporation had taken political decisions to handle the situation. In recent months, the world has seen and continues to see a significant shift in everyday lives, which has had significant implications for industry, commerce, and transportation. The pandemic's emergence altered both economic and trade forecasts for 2020. New predictions have reduced forecasts to negative 4.9 per cent, down from an estimate of 3.6 per cent increase in container trade worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 2.5 per cent in January 2020. PNG Ports chairman Kepas Wali clarified that the company's earnings were the result of tight cost-cutting steps and prudent decisions taken by management. Last year, he said, the closing of borders and prohibitions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic struck PNG Ports hard, which is dependent on trade. Despite COVID-19, PNG Ports has continued to operate all of its ports. “When COVID-19 hit the country and the world, the management of PNG Ports worked quickly and instituted certain protocols and prevention measures just so we can maintain our ports operations,” he said. “The management’s quick response to the situation has made it possible for all ports to operate during the hit by the pandemic through until now.” He said the pandemic's consequences on the company were expensive, but PNG Ports is happy with the positive results obtained by their management's swift reaction and aims to continue this going forward.
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Australia buys Digicel, PNG’s mobile monopoly
Photo credit: Devpolicy by Stephen Howes Yesterday, Telstra announced that it was buying Digicel Pacific. Telstra itself is only paying $270 million, and the Australian government $1.33 billion. Yet, Telstra is obtaining 100% ownership. The deal is certainly an attractive one for Telstra. But does it make sense for Australia, and for the Pacific? Digicel has had a transformational impact in the Pacific, but now has too much market power. As the Telstra release explains, it holds the dominant position in all the Pacific countries in which it operates, except for Fiji, where it is in second place. In Papua New Guinea, which I know best, and which is by far Digicel's biggest market, the company has a 92% share of the mobile phone market. That makes Digicel effectively a monopoly in PNG. And that is why it is so profitable: like any monopolist, it exploits its market power. Australian and PNG researchers have been tracking mobile internet prices in PNG since Australia gifted it a new underwater cable . Their conclusion is that since the completion of that cable in December 2019 to today there has been no decrease in mobile internet prices. The reason is simple: the lack of retail competition. Michelle Nayahamui Rooney, Martin Davies and I last year exposed Digicel PNG’s predatory loan scheme. Digicel lends phone credit to its customers. They pay it back when they next top up. Our estimate is that Digicel made a 17% return from such loans every week, which is equivalent to an unbelievable 351200% a year. Is this really the way in which Australia want to engages in the Pacific – owning an enterprise that keeps prices high for consumers, and rips them off when they are desperate to make a call? Any monopolist is necessarily engaged in a battle between the consumer and their profits. At some point, Telstra will end up going toe-to-toe with the PNG telecom regulator, NICTA, as Digicel has done several times. It’s going to be awkward for both Telstra and the Australian government. Many will welcome the investment as a sign of Australian commitment to the Pacific. However, if we want to invest in the telecom sector in the Pacific, we should be backing alternatives to Digicel, to push prices down and improve services, not buying out the dominant player. Amalgamated Telecom Holdings based in Fiji is the Pacific’s second biggest telecom provider. It is currently planning to enter the PNG mobile market with support from the Asian Development Bank. This is the sort of investment we should be financing. That Australia has bought Digicel shows the extent to which the Pacific is now viewed through a China lens. That’s unfortunate. China is a massive economic power. Its companies will have increasing stakes in economies around the world. That is a fact we have to accept. The Australian government also needs to decide if its only goal is to counter China or if it is still seeks to promote Pacific development. When I was AusAID's Chief Economist, Digicel was the new kid on the block in the Pacific, and it was successfully challenging state-owned telcos that until then had been dominant. In 2006, in Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's flagship Pacific 2020 report, we wrote glowingly about the competition that various Pacific countries had recently started allowing in the mobile phone sector. Our analysis was right then, and remains relevant today. Yet here we are, in 2021, doing the opposite: rather than supporting greater competition in the telecom sector, subsidising the purchase of the incumbent monopolist. The decision to buy Digicel Pacific should be reversed. If it is too late for that, the Australian government should at least – in return for all its cheap and risk-reducing finance – oblige Telstra to operate Digicel for the benefit of the people of the Pacific rather than solely for its shareholders through an agreement that makes it clear that the Australian company is not only expected to return the cheap loan it has been given, but also reduce prices, and end rip-offs. This article appeared first on Devpolicy Blog (devpolicy.org), from the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University. Stephen Howes is the Director of the Development Policy Centre and a Professor of Economics at the Crawford School.
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Taureka Replaced As Managing Director
Isikeli Taureka's position as managing-director (MD) of Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH) was terminated by the National Executive Council (NEC) recently. Professor David Kavanamur has been appointed as interim MD until a permanent appointment is made, and Moses Maladina, the current chairman of PNG Power Ltd, has been named as acting chairman. Taureka was removed after 20 months, according to Prime Minister James Marape, due to poor performance by KCH and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and missed national project deadlines. “The reforms of the SOEs were endorsed by the Government in October 2019,” he said “We see it as the most-significant reform programme to be undertaken by any Government since the corporatisation of the state utilities and the creation of the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC), now KCH. “Building governance and accountability must go hand in hand with successful project execution. These are viable projects that can fundamentally change the accessibility and affordability of services and benefit the welfare of our people. “Extensive unexplained delays to major projects by KCH and SOEs are not acceptable. The Government understands that SOE issues cannot be immediately resolved as they take time. “That is why the NEC provided well over a year for KCH to work with SOEs to support the development and execution of strategies. We had hoped more would have been achieved during Taureka’s tenure. We regret to take the difficult step of severing the MD’s appointment. However, the NEC felt it had to be done. “The Telikom merger and partial privatisation with majority ownership and board control to be passed onto the super funds, for example, is one major issue the Government has been pushing since 2019 when we took office. “The merger of Water PNG and Eda Ranu is another matter that has been outstanding and not yet resolved. This merger is to take on a subsidiary structure where 20 percent of Eda Ranu is to be owned by Koiari landowners and 10 per cent each by Central Province and the National Capital District. “This decision was taken in 2019 but has not been implemented to date. “As for PNG Power and its continuous performance issues, these have been ongoing and evident. “These are badly-needed reforms within the SOEs and responsive policies have been launched by the Government, yet, very little or no progress have been made. “Out of respect to Taureka as a leading Papua New Guinea son, I had reached out to him for a meeting but there was no response forthcoming. Hence, the announcement of this decision (termination),” he added. Those nominated to crucial positions, according to Marape, must grasp the larger picture and act quickly to fulfill the government's goals.“For others in key leadership roles, whether as chair, members of boards, departments or agency heads, you are not here to pass the time or warm seats. Everyone must step up. “The Prime Minister’s Department is working to take stock of work done. So, if you feel you have not met your key performance indicators, I suggest you start thinking about resigning before the NEC asks you to leave.” According to Marape, Kavanamur had previously served as the chairman of KCH and had a thorough awareness of the organization's issues as well as the government's goals. Reference: The National (22 October 2021). “Cabinet Axes Taureka”.
PNG Business News - October 26, 2021
Digicel Pacific to be Acquired by Telstra
Telstra has announced that it will buy Digicel Pacific for $US1.6 billion, plus up to an additional US$250 million based on business performance over the next three years, subject to government and regulatory approvals. In its six South Pacific markets – Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu – Telstra, Australia's leading telecommunications and technology company, will continue to invest in and operate the business under the Digicel brand name. Telstra International CEO Oliver Camplin-Warner said the agreement will allow Telstra to expand on Digicel Pacific's regional leadership and increase mobile connectivity in Papua New Guinea. “Denis O’Brien and the Digicel team have built a phenomenal business that’s centred on providing exceptional customer service, the best coverage and leading digital experiences. Telstra will add to these strengths and the team’s local knowledge with our more than one hundred years’ experience connecting the vast expanses of Australia to continue delivering great experiences for Digicel’s customers across the Pacific.” “We have 19.5 million retail mobile customers in Australia and our 4G network is the largest and most reliable in country. It covers some of the remotest parts of Australia – from the coast, to the outback and the Torres Strait Islands, just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. And we’re in the process of building Australia’s largest 5G network that now stretches to more than 240 towns and 75 per cent of the population,” Camplin-Warner said. There will be no employment losses in the region as a result of the transaction, and the present Digicel Pacific team will continue to manage the company on a day-to-day basis. Denis O'Brien, the current owner of Digicel, will continue on the Board of Directors. “We will invest our know-how and capital to further expand coverage and over time bring the benefits of 5G to Papua New Guinea. But we’ll retain the same Digicel brand the people of PNG know and love today with the same team and services they have come to rely on,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. The purchase, according to Camplin-Warner, is in line with Telstra International's expansion plan, which now comprises operations in 20 countries outside of Australia and thousands of clients, including businesses, governments, and some of the world's largest technology firms. “Beyond Australia Telstra also has the most extensive subsea telecommunications cable network in the Asia Pacific. And we’re one of the biggest providers of voice and data services connecting the South Pacific to the rest of the world through our Southern Cross cable.” “Network traffic is growing faster than at any other period of time and digital technology is changing our world. We are at the centre of this, and so is Digicel Pacific. We are committed to delivering the best technology on the best network for PNG,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. The people and businesses of PNG will benefit from Telstra's experience rolling out a world-class 5G network and connecting diverse geographies, according to Colin Stone, CEO of Digicel Papua New Guinea. “Telstra’s network innovation has played a critical part in Australia being ranked first in the global Mobile Connectivity Index which assesses networks based on performance, affordability and availability. We look forward to working with Oliver and the Telstra team,” Mr Stone said. The two firms' ideals, according to Camplin-Warner, were likewise matched. “Digicel Pacific and Telstra are both committed to building a connected future so everyone can thrive and this includes supporting some of the most vulnerable in our communities.” “Digicel Pacific has taken community development to the next level through the Digicel Foundation’s investment in health, education and community-based programs. We look forward to continuing this work, just as we do today with the Telstra Foundation and its commitment to using technology to support young people and help to reduce the digital divide.” “We will also bring a commitment to addressing climate change to help drive better environmental outcomes for the people of PNG,” Mr Camplin-Warner said. Despite the fact that the transaction is funded by the Australian government, Telstra will remain the only owner and operator of the company. Reference: Loop (October 25, 2021). “Australia’s biggest telecommunications company to acquire Digicel Pacific”.