JAPANESE FIRM BUYS GUAM CELLULAR PHONE CARRIERS

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By Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 21) - A major Japan-based mobile communications company, among the world's largest, has agreed to purchase Guam cellular carriers GUAMCELL/SAIPANCELL and HafaTEL for US$72 million.

NTT DoCoMo Inc. of Japan announced that it plans to merge the two local carriers into a Guam division of NTT DoCoMo and has agreed to retain GUAMCELL President Mark Chamberlin as the new company's chief executive officer. The Guam venture has yet to be named.

Chamberlin said the new changes will not take effect for about six months, when all regulatory approvals are expected to be granted.

Fong Wu, whose family owns HafaTEL, said all current subscriber agreements will be honored through the merger. The sale, he said, will mean better service for local customers, as well as visitors from Japan, Korea and the Philippines who are subscribers to NTT DoCoMo's mobile network.

The Japan-based company has more than 50 million subscribers around the world, as well as 45 million Internet subscribers. It is a publicly traded company on the New York, London and Tokyo stock exchanges and had operating revenues of more than US$41 billion last fiscal year, ending March 2005, according to the company's Web site.

Yesterday's merger announcement comes more than a year after TeleGuam holdings purchased the Guam Telephone Authority, which is now GTA. After its acquisition, GTA began offering cellular services. Soon after, local cellular companies began dropping rates in light of competition.

The telecommunications market also may see a new landline provider after the Public Utilities Commission issued a certification last year for Pacific Data Systems to become a landline service provider. Pacific Data Systems has been trying to obtain an agreement to interconnect with GTA.

Chamberlin yesterday said discussion of the merger has been ongoing for the last nine months.

"NTT DoCoMo is interested in improving the experience of their customers roaming to this island and in turn want to improve the service and availability of technology to local customers," Chamberlin said.

"We love our company, love our place in this market and I think the HafaTEL guys are great and have a great product. This is all consistent with our vision of what we've wanted to do – it's good for our customers, good for employees and good for the marketplace," he said.

Chamberlin would not divulge the number of GUAMCELL/ SAIPANCELL subscribers but said they are the largest cellular provider in the Mariana Islands – comprising Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Chamberlin said NTT DoCoMo wants the new company to be run locally by a team comprising GUAMCELL and HafaTEL managers.

Chamberlin said he has no knowledge of any planned layoffs and noted the benefit the buyout will have for tourism on island.

David Tydingco, president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association and Guam Visitors' Bureau board member, said the merger will have a positive effect on selling Guam to Japanese travelers. The Japanese market is Guam's main tourism source.

"We will now be able to join forces with them to gain access to the Japanese visitor directly and what better and more inexpensive way is there to do it than through cellular communication," he said. "This bodes well for all of us here."

Wu said the merger will improve technology and communication for customers on Guam and in the Mariana Islands.

March 22, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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