Vietnam's telecom giant under scrutiny for acquisition in pay TV market

By Lan Ha   March 8, 2018 | 08:59 pm PT
Vietnam's telecom giant under scrutiny for acquisition in pay TV market
Vietnam's third largest telecom company MobiFone is now on the hot seat for its acquisition of private pay TV operator AVG. Photo by VnExpress/P.V
Mystery surrounds a government investigation into Mobifone that was launched last year.

Vietnam's Communist Party has instructed the government to look into state-run MobiFone Telecommunications Corporation's acquisition of a private pay TV firm following reports of violations by government inspectors.

MobiFone, the country's third largest telco, has repeatedly made headlines since early 2016 when it announced it was breaking into the pay TV market with the acquisition of a 95 percent stake in Audio Visual Global JSC, better known as AVG.

In August 2016, the Vietnamese government ordered an across-the-board inspection into the acquisition.

Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh subsequently directed the Government Inspectorate and relevant agencies to start the investigation, saying any violations would be subject to a criminal probe.

"The acquisition is a big investment for the company [MobiFone], so it should be looked at carefully," Mai Tien Dung, chairman of the Government Office, said at the time, without going into detail.

Any organization or individual who unlawfully takes advantage of their position or authority for personal gain will be strictly punished according to the law, and this will be publicized, Dung added.

The Government Inspectorate, the country's top watchdog, announced it had launched a probe into Mobifone in September 2017.

MobiFone was hoping the acquisition would help it rival other giants Viettel and VNPT, both already present in the pay TV market.

The company set a target of luring one million customers to its television service in 2016 and becoming one of the three biggest pay TV providers in Vietnam by 2020.

Since then, it has not revealed the value of the acquisition, but in a financial report issued in late 2016, it said it had invested around $400 million in AVG since the first half of that year.

At a meeting on Thursday hosted by Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, government inspectors reported the results of their investigation.

According to the Party secretariat, the case was “very serious, complicated and sensitive and had aroused social concerns, so the Government Inspectorate had made every effort to conduct a comprehensive inspection and come to a final conclusion.”

Authorities have been asked to study the report carefully and handle the case in an objective and accurate manner in accordance with the law to punish anyone found guilty of wrongdoings and recover State assets.

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