* Seeking foreign partner in H2 for Southeast Asia expansion
* Aims to invest 26.5 billion baht in 2014
* Aims to reduce debt further via infrastructure fund
* Plans to cut par value of stock to reduce retained losses
* To conclude deal in next 2 mths to operate mobile services
(Adds details on investment, restructuring)
By Manunphattr Dhanananphorn and Khettiya Jittapong
BANGKOK, March 6 Thai telecommunications group
True Corp PCL wants to take on a foreign partner in
the second half of this year to help it expand in Southeast
Asia, its chief executive said on Thursday.
True Corp, controlled by Thailand's richest man Dhanin
Chearavanont, plans to offer any potential partner new shares
equivalent to about quarter of its existing equity, Chief
Executive Suphachai Chearavanont told reporters.
"We prefer to raise funds via an equity issue to open way
for a foreign partner to take a stake in True," Suphachai said.
He declined to give further details.
True, which operates Thailand's third biggest mobile network
by subscribers, is currently the only major Thai telecom
operator without a foreign partner. Market leader Advanced Info
Service Pcl is 23 percent owned by Singapore
Telecommunications and Total Access Communication
is majority owned by Norway's Telenor.
Facing stiff competition at home, True Corp has set its
sights on the rapidly growing economies of Southeast Asia.
Suphachai said True Corp aimed to sign on 100 million
subscribers in the region over the next five years, which would
be almost five times as much as its current subscriber base in
The company expects to conclude its first Southeast Asian
deal - a joint partnership with Myanmar's Yatanarpon Teleport -
within the next two months, Suphachai said.
The deal, if successful, would pit True against Telenor and
Qatar's Ooredoo which are building new mobile networks
in Myanmar, a country where less than a tenth of the 60 million
population has a mobile phone.
True is the only Thai telecom operator offering a full range
of services from mobile and fixed-line phones to broadband
Internet and cable television.
An aggressive expansion of its mobile network has left True
with a net debt of $2.3 billion at the end of 2013, the third
largest among telecom operator in Southeast Asia, Reuters
Chief Financial Officer Noppadol Dej-Udom said True was
considering selling more telecoms networks to an infrastructure
fund it had listed in December to pay down more debt. The fund's
listing raised $1.8 billion in December, which helped cut the
debt down to 75 billion baht ($2.32 billion), he added.
True also planned to cut the par value of its stock, an
accounting method to help a company reduce accumulated losses
and enable it to pay dividends, Noppadol said.
Concerns about True's debt burden prompted ratings agency
Moody's to downgrade the company, and its mobile unit, and
assign them with a negative outlook.
True Corp expects to make a profit this year after a net
loss of 9 billion baht ($278.55 million) last year, mainly due
to gains from a listing of the fund.
It also plans to invest 26.5 billion baht ($820 million)
this year, primarily to expand its mobile and high-speed
broadband Internet businesses as it targets revenue growth of 7
to 9 percent.
At 0835 GMT, True shares were down 1.3 percent,
underperforming a 0.06 percent rise of the main index.
($1 = 32.3100 Thai baht)
(Additional reporting by Tripti Kalro in BANGALORE; Editing by