Bemobile in trouble in SI

I don’t know what it is, but anything PNG related seems to get infected with problems. Well not all since I guess BSP is expanding well in the region. But what’s going on at bemobile?

Even with foreign management we still don’t seem to have learnt anything from Digicel.

This certainly is not the right step in gaining the confidence of our Melanesian cousins, let alone the shareholders of bemobile which comprise of PNG contributers to our 2 biggest superfunds.

If they can turn things around before the second deadline, then all the better for everyone. If not, I’m sure Digicel will be waiting at the gates to clobber them.

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By Eric Tapakau and Solomon Star

Bemobile’s attempt to enter the Solomon Islands has sufferred a major hit as the company is fined for not living up to its requirements under its licence.

The Solomon Islands telecommunications commissioner Nicholas Williams slapped the PNG mobile phone company with a fine of $US1.5 million (K4.6 million). The Solomon Star reported that Mr Williams said he had taken the $US1.5 million from a demand guarantee of $10 million (K30.7 million) provided by bemobile to ensure its compliance with the network coverage obligation in its license.

Bemobile was granted the mobile phone license in December last year by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua but critics then were quick to say that the licence “would be short lived”.

Within 48 hours of receiving the 15 year license, senior Solomon Islands Government officials revealed that bemobile had failed to lodge an application for a business license with the country’s Foreign Investment Board (FIB). Bemobile is owned by some of PNG’s biggest companies.

All new businesses are required by law to register their company by applying for a business license before they are allowed to do any business in the Solomons.

A bemobile official at their Port Moresby headquarters said the company would issue a statement today in response to the Solomon Star article and “all our response will be in the statement”, she said.

The Solomon Star reported that under its license, bemobile is required to launch a network serving 25 per cent of the population by 18 June 2010.

Mr. Willaims said he had given bemobile an extention until 30th August to become compliant with its license. “If bemobile were not to meet its new deadline, I will take an additional USD$1 million from the demand guarantee”, he told the Solomon Star. “There are further thresholds that bemobile is required to meet”, Mr. Williams said.

He said he expects bemobile to work strenuously and diligently to meet these tresholds and catch up with the original network deployment timetable envisaged in its license. Chief Executive Officer Julien Coustaury had previously assured the nation that his company will launch its operations in time according to the requirements under its license. But he had failed to live up to his words. Many doubted the company launching its operations this year, saying bemobile is yet to build even one telecommunications tower.

Bemobile’s shareholding includes superannuation funds NASFUND, Nambawan Supa, PNG Sustainable Development Programme who hold a 15% interest. Telikom PNG holds 50% while GEMS and Trilogy International Partners hold the remaining 35%.

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