Buy Jaring? Yes, we're still keen

PETALING JAYA (Sept 17, 2013): Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd, which is owned by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, is still warm to the idea of buying the country's first Internet service provider – Jaring Communications Sdn Bhd.

However, the telecommunication company (telco) said the decision ultimately lies with Jaring's sole stakeholder, the Ministry of Finance (MOF).

"We are open, but the stakeholder needs to decide what they want to do with Jaring first. We are open to possibilities, to talk, but the last round it didn't go through because certain things they (the parties) couldn't agree on. Since then, there hasn't been any talks between Jaring and Puncak Semangat," Altel Communications Sdn Bhd CEO Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Yaacob (pix) told SunBiz in an interview.

Altel is a subsidiary of Puncak Semangat.

"The option is open. At the end of the day, the decision to sell Jaring at what terms lies with the sole stakeholder (MOF)," he added.

Prior to joining Altel, Nik Abdul Aziz was CEO of Jaring from March 2011 till September 2012.

Last year, Puncak Semangat had submitted its proposal to buy over Jaring but had withdrawn its plans later. During that time, Nik Abdul Aziz was CEO of Jaring, but news of his resignation came shortly after Puncak Semangat withdrew its bid.

At Altel, Nik Abdul Aziz said the new telco has secured close to 1,000 subscribers ahead of its product launch slated at the end of this month and is confident of achieving its target of 150,000 subscribers by August next year.

Since Aug 22, Altel's first prepaid product has been made available to the public via its three exclusive outlets namely Sunway Pyramid in Petaling Jaya, Pertama Complex in Kuala Lumpur and Tesco Bukit Indah in Johor, as well as its chain of 60 to 70 dealers where the public can purchase its SIM cards and top-ups.

"So far, it's (take-up) been quite good. For example, we just launched the outlet in Johor earlier this month and without any promotions or announcements, we are surprised with our subscriber base.

"We're talking about just walk-in customers to the outlet and there have been top-ups as well. It's quite encouraging," said Nik Abdul Aziz.

He said the public has been curious about its product and many are looking for alternatives. Altel plans to launch its postpaid product in the first or second quarter of next year.

"We would like to stabilise (our business) in two to three years. In five years, we would like to see ourselves among the top telcos.

"Of course being the new kid on the block, we have a lot of catching up to do, but what we lack in terms of history and experience, we try to make up in ingenuity, innovation and creativity in how we address the market and get subscribers," he said.

Incorporated in March 2012, Altel began operations in July 2012 and has since signed a collaborative agreement with Celcom Axiata Bhd for infrastructure and spectrum sharing, joint go-to-market initiatives and discussions on roaming agreement for voice services.

Puncak Semangat is one of eight companies awarded with the LTE 2600MHz spectrum by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission in December 2012 to provide 4G services.

Nik Abdul Aziz said it is now working with Celcom to map out locations of base stations in preparation for the rollout of its 4G services.

Meanwhile, its prepaid product will ride on Celcom's presence nationwide and the company hopes its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (ebitda) will turn positive at the end of its third year of operations.