DoCoMo in talks with SingTel, KT Freetel on alliances

NTT DoCoMo Inc. says it is currently in talks with both Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) and South Korea's KT Freetel Co. regarding a possible alliance between the cellular carriers.

The Japanese cellular carrier, reacting to press reports of the talks, acknowledged in a brief statement that talks have taken place. However, the company said, "Nothing has been determined as of this time."

SingTel owns SingTel Mobile, which is one of three carriers competing for customers in a market where penetration has reached over 70 percent, according to government figures. KT Freetel is one of the leading cellular carriers in South Korea and is affiliated with Korea Telecom Corp., the country's leading telecommunication carrier.

The talks renew DoCoMo's attempts to court a cellular carrier in South Korea, a nation where the mobile infrastructure is as advanced or possibly more advanced than Japan. Its last attempt to find a partner ended in failure in December last year when talks that had been going on with SK Telecom Co. Ltd. for a year and a half collapsed after the two sides were unable to agree on the price DoCoMo would pay for a slice of SK Telecom.

As those talks ended, the company was also starting to come to terms with billions of dollars it had lost as a result of the falling stock prices of companies in which it had previously taken stakes. In total, the company wrote off ¥812.7 billion (US$6.9 billion) as a result of investments in AT&T Wireless Service Inc., British 3G license holder Hutchison 3G UK Holdings Ltd., and Taiwan's KG Telecommunications Co. Ltd.

Following the announcement, DoCoMo said it had completed for the time being investments in most regions of the world, although it is still looking to strike more alliances in Asia, where it holds stakes in KG Telecom and Hong Kong's Hutchison Telephone Co. Ltd. The new alliances, it said, would not necessarily involve equity stakes.

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