Beer-powered bid to build mobile network goes flat

San Miguel left with bitter taste in mouth after collapse of talks with Australian telco

An attempt by Filipino giant San Miguel Corporation to create a mobile phone business has gone flat.

San Miguel is best known as brewer of a beer* bearing its name, but also build infrastructure, generates electricity and refines oil. The latter activities reflect its desire to diversify and grow, an ambition that last year led it to the boardroom table of Australia's dominant telco Telstra. The Australian company wants to invest in Asia to find markets larger than Australia's meagre population of 23 million.

Together, the two hatched a plan to spend US$1bn on a new mobile phone network for The Philippines, a nation that currently has only two operators but near-insatiable demand for mobile communications.**

Telstra today told (PDF) the Australian Stock Exchange that talks with San Miguel went nowhere and that its plan to pour up to US$1bn into a joint venture has gone down the drain.

San Miguel's silent on the matter, for now, but could presumably seek other joint venture partners to realise its dream of a a mobile phone network bearing the name of a beer. Which, let's face it, we would all subscribe to ASAP. ®

* Rather nice, when cold, light and crisp-ish Asian-style beer that calls itself a Pilsner and is best drunk before it gets anywhere near warm.

** On a brief visit 15 years ago, your correspondent was told that The Philippines is the only nation where convenience stores sell more pre-paid phone cards, by value, than Coca-Cola products. That factoid was delivered by a Cornell-educated PhD who led a colossal local company but didn't stop TXTing, with a phone in each hand, while I tried to extract a Microsoft case study from him. I've long pondered whether this was local manners, or if I was just barely tolerated.


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