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Thaicom enters Indian mkt, sees profit in 2010

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CIOL Bureau
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BANGKOK, THAILAND: Thai satellite operator Thaicom said it would formally launch a high-speed Internet service via its broadband satellite, IPSTAR, in India in the third quarter and it was on track to make a net profit this year.

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"We will return to net earnings this year, which will be mainly driven by revenue from IPSTAR," Chief Executive Arak Chonlatanon told reporters on Thursday, saying some revenue was already coming in from India.

Also read: RIL sees large opportunity in broadband

"Service in India already started from July 1 and the contract signing will eventually take place in the third quarter," Arak said.

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Thaicom, indirectly owned by Singapore's Temasek Holdings, also gets revenue from users in Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, among other countries.

The Indian market, accounting for about 17 per cent of IPSTAR's capacity, is potentially its second largest after China.

The company is forecast to post a net profit of 133.5 million baht ($4.1 million) in 2010, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.

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Shares in Thaicom had fallen 3.97 percent to 6.05 baht at the midsession break, underperforming the broader market's 1.2 percent gain after reports the authorities had found the company in breach of its concession agreement.

Disputes

Newspapers reported that an investigation set up by the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry as part of a mooted government plan to buy control of the company's satellites had concluded Thaicom may have violated the concession.

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One of the charges is that a $6.7 million insurance reimbursement that Thaicom used to lease foreign transponders violated its concession in that the funds should have been returned to the concession owner, the ICT Ministry.

"All I can say is that our company has done nothing wrong in terms of the concession and was in full compliance," Arak said.

The government said in June that it wanted to buy back control of the satellites, citing reasons of national security.

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Thaicom is 41 per cent owned by Shin Corp, which was founded by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a figurehead for recent anti-government protests in Bangkok.

Thaksin's family sold Shin Corp in 2006 to Temasek, a Singapore government sovereign wealth fund, in a controversial $1.9 billion deal.

Arak said it was waiting for the government's response to its request to launch a sixth satellite.

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