Campaign against True-Dtac merger gains steam
A campaign against the planned merger of telecom giants True Corp and Total Access Communication (Dtac) over monopoly fears is gaining momentum, with over 15,000 people signing up.
Launched by user “Khun Kuna” seven months ago, the Change.org petition campaign surpassed 15,000 supporters four days ago.
As of noon on Monday, 15,409 people had signed the petition, which has targeted 25,000 signatures.
The campaign calls on the National Anti-Corruption Commission, National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the Trade Competition Commission to investigate the True-Dtac deal over concern it will lead to a monopoly that damages consumers. It added that the merger would be unfair to Dtac users who do not want to become True customers.
Change.org is one of several channels being used by opponents of the deal. Others include a petition submitted to the Norwegian embassy and a complaint to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) against a share buyback from shareholders who disagree with the deal.
On Wednesday, consumer advocates petitioned the embassy in Bangkok, asking the Norwegian government to intervene in the planned deal. Norway’s Telenor is the parent of Dtac, holding 46.7 per cent of its shares.
Last month, the National Telecom Plc (NT) union sent a letter to the SEC asking it to suspend any buyback of shares until the True-Dtac merger is approved by the NBTC.
Prasan Ja-nguleuam, president of the union, said the SEC wrote back on August 3 confirming that the buyback and any other merger-related activity must wait for a green light from the NBTC.
The union’s move followed a July 22 press conference given by the parent firms of True and Dtac, Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group and Telenor respectively. The two firms announced they would buy back shares from shareholders who are opposed to the merger, starting this month. They denied True was launching a takeover, saying the two companies were simply merging to form a new technology firm.
Telenor and CP also insisted that the NBTC has no power to approve or reject their merger but can only impose conditions to govern it.
However, Prasarn argued that under a Central Administrative Court ruling, the NBTC has final authority over approval of the deal.
Prasarn said that NT, which itself was formed from a merger between CAT Telecom and TOT Plc, is a shareholder of Dtac and could face hundreds of millions of baht in damage if the merger goes ahead.
Meanwhile, NBTC appears to have adopted a delaying tactic after the claim it has no power to reject the merger, saying it would order more studies before making a final decision on the deal.
The planned merger is thought to stem from Telenor’s desire to pull out of the region, including Malaysia and Myanmar. Market observers say True sees the deal as a chance to boost its competitiveness against Advanced Info Service, Thailand’s No 1 telecom player in terms of subscribers. They believe Telenor will wait until the merger deal is done before unloading its shares in Dtac.
Meanwhile, True has stepped up its campaign to win public support for the merger by releasing ads, mostly on its TrueVisions subscription TV network. The ads claim the merger will benefit consumers as the two companies would combine their telecom resources and network to provide a better service.