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Vietnam’s MobiFone chairman transferred amid telco’s unsettled inspection

Thursday, June 08, 2017, 14:31 GMT+7

The chairman of MobiFone’s board of members has been transferred to another post, while a thorough inspection launched last year into an acquisition deal by one of Vietnam’s leading mobile carrier remains unfinished.

Le Nam Tra, 56, has been stripped of his chairmanship at MobiFone and appointed to a position at the head office of the Ministry of Information and Communications, which oversees the telecom firm.

Deputy Minister Pham Hong Hai will temporarily replace Tra pending the selection of a replacement, the ministry said on Wednesday.

Tra began his career at MobiFone as the company’s general director in August 2014 before being appointed its chairman in April 2015.

The chairmanship transfer came just nine months after the Government Inspectorate of Vietnam, as requested by the government, began an urgent and complete probe into MobiFone’s purchase of a 95 percent stake at Audio Visual Global (AVG), a local pay TV operator, in September 2016.

The inspection was set to run for 50 days, but six months later authorities have yet to conclude the matter.

Ngo Van Khanh, deputy chief of the Government Inspectorate, said in April 2017 that even though the inspection was complete, a final conclusion hasn’t been reached.

“There are several issues that can only be clarified after meeting with the individuals involved in order to ensure objectivity,” he said, without specifying when the final result will be announced.

As of September 2016, MobiFone was Vietnam’s second largest mobile carrier with more than 34.6 million subscribers, following Viettel, nearly 63.6 million, according to the information ministry’s statistics.

AVG is the operator of the An Vien Television payment television service, the operation of which has been transferred to Mobifone following the deal’s announcement in January 2016.

However, both AVG and state-run Mobifone refused to disclose the value of the deal.

The mobile carrier did say in a statement at the time that the acquisition was done as part of its bid to enter the pay-TV sector, a strategy Tra, as the then MobiFone chairman, said had been backed by the former prime minister.

In April 2016, MobiFone renamed AVG as MobiTV, targeting to have one million new subscribers for the pay TV service by the end of that year. It also aims to be in the top three in terms of market share by 2020.

The ambitious goals were set from a low starting point, with the erstwhile AVG, which entered Vietnam’s pay TV sector in late 2011, considered the worst-performing player in the industry.

Vietnam currently has 9.9 million pay TV subscribers, 400,000 of whom are AVG customers.

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