我们可以由中国大规模电信业重组的序幕中窥斑见豹。中国政府已经在吸引外资承担一轮重组，如今正试图把4家运营商缩减为3家，以此创造一个更公平的竞争环境。实现这项宏伟计划的初步措施的细节于昨日公布。因被迫经营两种彼此竞争的技术而拿着一张烂牌的中国联通(China Unicom)，将从规模较小的CDMA网络中解脱出来。然而，这远非竞价机制。套用政府公告的委婉说法，固话运营商中国电信(China Telecom)是在政府“鼓励”下收购的这项业务。该公司将以63亿美元收购中国联通的CDMA业务，再以95亿美元收购中国联通母公司拥有的CDMA网络资产。2007年，中国联通CDMA业务实现税前利润12亿元人民币。
investors are no strangers to pulling the short straw, especially in Asian mergers and acquisitions. How much worse a deal can they expect when government calls the shots?
Stage one of China’s massive telecommunications reshuffle offers
a snapshot. Beijing, which has already enticed foreigners to underwrite one round of restructuring, is now seeking to form a more level playing field by morphing four carriers into three. Details of the first steps towards this grand plan were published yesterday. China Unicom, which was dealt a duff card by being obliged to run two competing technologies, is to be relieved of its smaller CDMA network. Far from a competitive auction, however, China Telecom, as the announcement euphemistically puts it, was “encouraged” to acquire the business. The fixed-line carrier will pay $6.3bn for Unicom’s CDMA business, which generated pre-tax profits of $125m last calendar year, and another $9.5bn for the network itself, which is owned by Unicom’s state parent.
The absence of comparable deals makes it hard to quarrel with a price in line with estimates. But Unicom appears to have secured the better deal in its subsequent takeover of China Netcom, the smaller fixed-line carrier. Unicom is swapping 1.5 of its shares for every one Netcom share, which equates to a miserly 3 per cent premium over Netcom’s pre-suspension closing price. True, some M&A premium was already in the price – this restructuring has been on the cards for years, and the premium stretches to 15-20 per cent over 30-90 day timeframes. But the implied HK$27.87 share price for Netcom represents 18.3 times this year’s forecast earnings, a big discount to the global sector average. Of course, neither this nor the fact that existing foreign investors now have smaller stakes in a bigger company will deter newcomers. Hope springs eternal in a land where 8-9m new mobile subscribers are signed up every month.