Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信), the nation's third largest mobile-phone service operator, announced yesterday it would spend about NT$30 billion in a cash-and-stock swap to take over smaller rival KG Telecommunications Co (和信電訊).
The two companies signed a letter of intent yesterday. Based on the agreement, for every KG Telecom share, Far EasTone will pay NT$6.864 cash and 0.46332 of its shares.
"Through our alliance, we will be able to reach a larger economy of scale and strengthen our market position," Douglas Hsu (徐旭東), chairman of Far EasTone, said at a press conference.
The acquisition will boost Far EasTone's customer base to some 7.7 million users and make it the country's second largest mobile-phone service operator, after Taiwan Cellular Corp's (台灣大哥大) 8.6 million users, but ahead of state-run Chunghwa Telecom Co's (中華電信) 7.67 million users.
"KG Telecom is delighted to be part of a big telecom player ... this enables us to be more involved in this competitive and fast-moving industry," said Leslie Koo (辜成允), chairman of KG Telecom.
The transaction leaves KG Telecom with 800 million Far EasTone shares along with NT$11.9 billion in cash.
KG Telecom, along with its well-known i-mode service, is expected to be absorbed into Far EasTone's operations.
"Basically the new company will still operate as Far EasTone, and KG Telecom will become a part or a brand under the company," Hsu said.
Hsu said it may take at least one month for both parties to discuss future operations and management details.
According to a bank official involved in the merger deal, KG Telecom will control 23 percent of Far EasTone's shares and retain several seats on the board.
Koo will become one of Far EasTone's board members and "play a very important role in the new company," said Ronald Song (宋雲峰), an executive of ABN Amro Holdings NV, which advises KG Telecom.
The proposed merger is expected to improve Far EasTone's competitive edge for the coming high-speed mobile Internet era.
"The move will help us to successfully migrate to third-generation [3G] mobile services," Hsu said.
A telecom analyst said a larger customer base can lower an operator's average cost in setting up 3G networks and the merger is on the right track, as the local mobile-service market is nearly saturated.
"Severe competition has left second-tier players no room to expand or to profit," said Nathan Lin (林宗賢), an analyst at SinoPac Securities Corp (建華證券).
In a bid to get a foothold in the 3G market, it is necessary to have a strong customer base, he said.