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SMC unit acquires Ongpin’s Extelcom

Conglomerate San Miguel Corp. has acquired a telecommunications company owned by the group of investment banker Roberto Ongpin in a bid to increase its presence in the sector.

San Miguel said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange wholly-owned unit Vega Telecoms Inc. bought Express Telecommunications Inc. and Vega’s investment in High Frequency Telecommunications Inc.

Extelcom, owned by the Ongpin Group and UK-based Ashmore Investment Management Ltd., is the country’s first mobile telephone operator

San Miguel will now have four telecommunications companies under its portfolio, including Eastern Telecommunications Philippines Inc., Bell Telecommunications Philippines Inc. and Liberty Telecoms Holdings Inc.

San Miguel said Vega Telecom would also acquire the entire interest and participation of Qtel West Bay Holdings S.P.C., Wi-tribe Asia Ltd. and White Dawn Solution Holdings Inc. in Liberty Telecom Holdings Inc.

San Miguel, through Vega, owns 41.48 percent of Liberty while Qatar-based telecom provider Qtel acquired a 27.12-percent stake through subsidiary Wi-Tribe.

The company said Vega would conduct a tender offer of the common shares of Liberty Telecoms held by the public in compliance with the Securities Regulation Code.

“The purchase of the shares of the sellers by Vega shall be subject to closing conditions, inclusive of the completion of the tender offer,” San Miguel said.

Astro del Castillo, managing director of First Grade Finance Inc., said the two transactions of San Miguel showed it was committed to be one of the major contenders in the telecommunication industry.

He said the prospects for San Miguel was still “good,” adding there was still room in the telecom industry.

“Another player would not hurt and it would benefit the consumers,” del Castillo added.

Liberty, which was out from corporate rehabilitation, aims to launch mobile phone services as early as January next year.

San Miguel’s Bell Telecommunications earlier said it concluded agreements with contractors and suppliers for the supply of various services, equipment and software related to the construction, operation and maintenance of a mobile telecommunications network.

BellTel said it would roll out its mobile network to become the fourth player in the mobile phone industry, after the PLDT Group (Smart and Sun Cellular), Globe Telecom Inc. and ABS-CBN Mobile.

BellTel said it integrated 197 base transceiver stations in the National Capital Region to its mobile telecommunication network. The National Telecommunications Commission issued 191 radio station licenses to BellTel.

“BelTel will be applying for additional RSLs as soon as more BTS are integrated into its mobile network and will launch services as soon as sufficient coverage for a commercial launch is achieved,” BelTel said

“Belltel has to date expended considerable capital in relation to the acquisition and construction of sites as well as the acquisition and installation of core and radio access network equipment and software,” it said.

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