InTouch bids to repudiate PDRC claim

Temasek Holdings, the major shareholder of InTouch Plc, is keeping its lips tightly sealed over the anti-government movement's allegation that the Thai telecom giant is still linked to the Shinawatra family, reiterating that the information was wrong.

The Singaporean investment firm wants to keep a low profile and stay away from politics, said a high-ranking source at Advanced Info Service (AIS), the mobile-phone flagship of InTouch.

But the board of InTouch has decided to clarify publicly that the company has no involvement in politics and its founder no longer has a stake in the company.

The decision came after a Feb 21 meeting in which the board agreed it was necessary to clear up the misunderstanding and soothe the protesters' anger, said AIS chief executive Wichian Mektrakarn.

Two representatives from Temasek sit on the board at InTouch. They insist that Temasek checked the shareholder structure, performance, accountability and strength of InTouch before investing in its two main subsidiaries, AIS and Thaicom.

The two companies traded on the stock exchange and were run with professionalism, transparency and good governance, Mr Wichian said on behalf of Temasek's representatives.

The board of AIS also has two representatives from Temasek.

The anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) earlier announced a plan to attack businesses with ties to the Shinawatra family. InTouch, formerly Shin Corporation, was founded by ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who later sold his shares to Temasek Holdings of Singapore.

The PDRC implied that InTouch was still owned by the Shinawatra family and urged AIS customers to return SIM cards as part of a boycott.

Mr Wichian said AIS respects customer decisions and wants subscribers to carefully consider the facts before cancelling service.

"What we are most concerned about is our employees' sentiment," he said.

He acknowledged that AIS saw tens of thousands of customers cancel service after the launch of the boycott two weeks ago.

But it would be hard to identify the exact number who left as part of the campaign, as some were simply migrating from 2G to 3G service.

AIS has 41 million subscribers, 17 million of whom are 3G customers.

As of Aug 21, 2013, InTouch was the major shareholder of AIS with a 40.45% stake, followed by Singtel Strategic Investments, a subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications, holding 23.31% and retail shareholders through Thai NVDR Co owning 6.32%, according to Mr Wichian.

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