SingTel plans to invest in central Asia and Middle East

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Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), Southeast Asia's largest phone firm, has started to look at possible investments in central Asia and in the Middle East, its chief executive said on April 23.

"We would still be looking at investments predominantly in Asia. We've started looking at new markets, including central Asia and Middle East," Chua Sock Koong, the new chief executive of SingTel told a news briefing.

"But our investments will continue to be predominantly in Asia, while we get familiar with these new markets. SingTel could join other operators to make joint bids for new licences, or if no new licences are on offer, buy stakes in existing operators, she added.

Chua, 49, a SingTel veteran, took the helm earlier this month from Lee Hsien Yang after his 12-year tenure.Chua, who is married with two daughters, has been with the company for 17 years, joining as treasurer in 1989, and promoted to CFO in 1999.

Facing a home market of just 4.5 million people, where mobile penetration has reached 100%, SingTel has spent S$17 billion ($11.3 billion) in recent years buying operators in high-growth Asian nations, and in the bigger Australian market.

The company, which is 56.5 percent-owned by state investor Temasek Holdings, now derives about 75 percent of revenues and two-thirds of pre-tax earnings from operations outside Singapore.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. already owns major stakes in Thailand's Advanced Info Service Plc., India's Bharti Group, Globe Telecom Inc. in the Philippines, Indonesia's PT Telkomsel, and Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Ltd.

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