Tokyo-based Mitsui & Co. bought another 10 percent stake in Smart Axiata, a subsidiary of Axiata Group and the leading mobile operator in Cambodia, further strengthening their cooperation to bring advanced digital technology into the fast growing local telecom industry.
According to Nikkei Asia Review, with Cambodia’s population growing and income levels on the rise, new telecom-based services are expected to continue to take root in the country. Mitsui seeks to capitalise on this by offering its know-how to broaden Smart Axiata’s offerings and boost profitability.
Last year, Axiata Group entered into an agreement with Mitsui, which saw the Japanese company become a 10 percent strategic partner in Smart Axiata. Under the transaction agreement, Axiata also granted Mitsui a call option to acquire an additional 10 percent after the completion of the transaction.
“Indeed Mitsui exercised that call option last month, raising their strategic stake in Smart to 20 percent,” the official statement said.
“Moving forward, Axiata will maintain its controlling and majority interest in Smart, which has proven to be one of the top performing investments in Axiata’s Asia-wide portfolio.”
The increase in Mitsui’s shareholding in Smart, said the statement, is an endorsement of Smart’s strong market operations and financial performance, as well as its positive perception in the industry.
According to the statement, the expertise of Mitsui and its investee companies in various digital portfolios will enable Smart to further strengthen its digital leadership and continue evolving into a lifestyle and entertainment brand, expanding beyond its role of a traditional telco in Cambodia.
“Smart, with the support of both Axiata and Mitsui, will continue to build on its leading position in the mobile industry in terms of active subscribers and revenue and they will add value on Japanese businesses and digital.
“No significant changes to our Smart’s management, strategy or operations are expected. The added partnership and support by Mitsui will act as a catalyst for Smart on its journey towards transforming Cambodia into a digital, knowledge and information based society as part of its vision of becoming Cambodia’s digital champion,” it added.
In last August, Smart Axiata became the first mobile operator to officially launch a 4.5G network in Cambodia, making a huge step forward towards a future 5G network in the Kingdom.
By the end of 2015, Smart had made 4G available across all 25 provinces. In 2016, the company invested $75 million to further rollout and expand the network and launched 4G+ using carrier aggregation.
Earlier this year, Smart become the first company to offer 4G+ with HD Voice or VoLTE. It also earmarked $80 million to expand its advanced mobile technology footprint nationwide.
Internet subscribers reached 8.5 million in Cambodia last year, an increase of nearly 500,000 users, according to the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC).
More than 10.5 million mobile phones were connected to the internet in 2017, about 67 percent of the country’s population.
Cambodia now has seven mobile telecom operators, eight fixed mobile telecom operators, seven mobile internet operators, and 34 fixed internet operators.
Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata, said during the launch of its 4.5G LTE in August that Smart will work closely with the government to take Cambodia to the next level of digital development and bring 5G technology to the Kingdom.
“We are one step closer of realising Cambodia’s dream of experiencing 5G. We at Smart will remain committed to work together with the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia and the Ministry of Posts and Telecoms towards achieving the relevant 5G standards.
“Our goal is to be the first to launch 5G once that is set. We have commenced studies on 5G key technologies with our partner Huawei to ensure preparedness,” he added.
“Our core business of providing the widest and fastest mobile Internet connectivity will be complemented by more and more digital solutions which will then bring us much closer to our vision, which is the same as that of the government: to develop a digital Cambodia.”