PCCW shareholders approve CSL deal as firm considers ending 3G challenge

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 1:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 1:15am

PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai has denied speculation that his company's legal challenge to the government's 3G spectrum reassignment plan would "increase its bargaining chips" for regulatory approval of subsidiary HKT's US$2.43 billion acquisition of CSL New World Mobility.

Such talk was "absolutely unfounded", Li told PCCW's extraordinary general meeting yesterday as shareholders gave a near-unanimous approval of the merger with the city's largest mobile network operator.

"We are seriously considering terminating the judicial review because the proceeding has caused unnecessary misunderstanding," he said.

The judicial review against the 3G spectrum plan and HKT's application with the Communications Authority to approve the CSL deal were two independent actions, he said.

"The judicial review aims to deal with certain matters of principle as it is important to know the process of how spectrum will be handled [by the government] in future," he said.

The government will take back and auction off a third of the spectrum in the 1.9-2.2 gigahertz band held by each of the four incumbent 3G mobile network operators in the fourth quarter.

SmarTone Telecommunications, CSL, Hutchison Telecommunications and HKT will be granted right of first refusal to be reassigned two-thirds of the 3G spectrum they now hold. Their licences expire in October 2016.

Li said: "We believe that members of the Communications Authority will consider the CSL transaction professionally and independently before coming to a fair and just decision."

HKT has pledged to relinquish additional 3G spectrum.

SmarTone has called on the regulator to impose strict conditions, such as HKT's surrender of blocks of spectrum from the 1.8GHz and 850MHz bands - the lower-frequency bands that provide better in-building penetration for 4G mobile services.