Korea Telecom in stake talks with foreign companies

The South Korean government is hoping it will soon almost halve its stake in Korea Telecom Corp., the country's dominant telecommunications carrier. A two-day domestic auction will begin Tuesday while talks with potential foreign partners are in progress.

The Tuesday auction will see the government offer a 14.7 percent stake in Korea Telecom. It will allow any interested Korean parties to bid for a stake of as much as 5 percent stake in Korea Telecom and is part of the government plan to fully privatize the carrier by the end of next year, according to Jae Won Lee, a spokesman for Korea Telecom. Pricing for the offer will be decided later Monday.

In addition to that auction, the government is also looking to sell an additional 15 percent stake to foreign investors. Working toward this sale, the company has been talking to a wide variety of potential investors about bidding in the auction, and these have included not just telephone companies, Lee said.

Lee said Sang Chul Lee, president of Korea Telecom, in response to a question during an investor conference Friday, said Korea Telecom was not restricting its talks to telephone companies and was happy to do a deal with "technology, portal operators and manufacturers, for example like Microsoft or even bankers."

Should the auction be successful and the government find foreign buyers for the additional 15 percent stake, its share in the operator will fall from the current 59 percent to 33.4 percent.

Korea Telecom is the country's incumbent telecommunications carrier. In addition to local and long-distance telephone services, it is the leading broadband access provider with a 43 percent market share, and a leading cellular carrier. Its KT Freetel and KT M.com cellular services are major brands in the market, and it recently won one of two government licenses to operate third-generation (3G) wireless services based on W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technology.

Korea Telecom, in Seoul, can be contacted at +82-31-727-0940, or found online at http://www.kt.co.kr/.

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