NTT DoCoMo Inc, Japan's biggest mobile phone operator, expects to bid at least US$1 billion for a stake in Vietnam's No.2 mobile phone carrier and is eyeing investments in other Asian countries, an executive said.
Vietnam's state-owned MobiFone plans an initial public offering in 2008 and is looking to sell a one-third stake as part of a privatisation plan. Other firms keen to invest include France Telecom and Singapore Telecommunications.
We have a chance to participate in the auction process. We expect to spend $1 billion for a 30 percent stake, Toshinari Kunieda, senior vice president and managing director of the global business unit, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday, adding that the company's bid could exceed $1 billion at auction.
NTT DoCoMo was also eyeing potential investment in other Asian countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, Kunieda said on the sidelines of the Mobile Asia Congress in Macau.
He said the company was looking at other possibilities in those countries, such as roaming services and the rollout of the i-mode mobile Internet service.
In its home market, DoCoMo expects user numbers to reach 53.89 million in the year ending March 2008, up from 52.62 million a year earlier, Kunieda said.
But DoCoMo, which controls 53 percent of Japan's 9 trillion yen ($80 billion) mobile market, has been under pressure to cut rates and basic fees in a saturated market.
Monthly voice average revenue per user (ARPU) would dip to 4,330 yen for the 2007 financial year, from 4,450 yen in the previous year, Kunieda said, but monthly data ARPU in 2007 would rise to 2,150 yen from 2,080 yen.
Kunieda said DoCoMo would launch two new tariff plans at the end of this month, which would be in line with moves by Japanese wireless operators to slash calling fees but raise handset prices.
Such tactics are common in the U.S. and European markets, where the consumers shoulder a larger part of the handset cost in exchange for cheaper call and data rates.
DoCoMo posted a 21 percent fall in first-half operating profit after losing users to smaller rivals such as KDDI Corp and new entrant Softbank Corp, but kept its full-year forecast of a 1 percent rise to 780 billion yen, above a consensus of 760.5 billion yen, according to 16 analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.