Hutch quashes 3 sale rumours

As if Hutchison Whampoa’s move to take on fixed broadband players was not evidence enough that the company is not planning to offload 3, group managing director Canning Fok put paid to any rumours of a sale on Thursday.

In what appears to be an in house interview published on the company’s web site, Fok maintains that the company is committed to its 3G strategy.

“We finished with the narrowband world in the year 2000 and raised $25bn through the sale of Orange. We have put in $20bn into 3G and applied that money into the mobile broadband world,” he said.

“But if you asked me whether we have problems in developing this business, I think from time to time we do get a little clumsy.”

Fok acknowledged that the 3G group is struggling to hit targets. “For example, we’re supposed to be making EBITDA breakeven for the whole group this year, but as announced in the interim results, we will not make that target,” he said.

“We will make that target later, next year…However, if you look at everything on a graph, there are ups and downs, but then it is still going where we want it to.”

Fok said that he sees the X-Series transforming the operator’s 3G business by serving customers better. “So exactly what is mobile broadband? In the beginning, we talked about video clips, and we talked about video call – we emphasised on the video aspect.

“But if you look at the [fixed] broadband world, they not only have the video aspect, they also have the whole world of internet, for example, Yahoo, Google,” he said. “What we are doing is to extend the mobile world from just voice and SMS into this big world of mobile internet, and mobile broadband.”

Fok admitted that when 3 first launched, it failed to achieve its goals largely because of the type of handsets it had to offer. “We came out first and everybody said that the network was not so good, the handset was big, and the battery was no good. So a lot of people, instead of using this wonderful machine, which is a computer itself, they just used it to talk.

“Now is 2006 going on to 2007. If you look at the handsets, they are wonderful, beautiful, and the battery is good, and everything is very sexy, and also, the capability is huge,” he said.

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