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'Risk' must top agenda of businesses, investors and govts
Telekom Malaysia moves to bridge the biggest gap in South Asia
John Burton, FT Syndication Service

          SINGAPORE: Telekom Malaysia is renewing efforts to enter the Indian market by holding preliminary talks to take a stake in Spice Telecom - a regional mobile operator in the Indian states of Punjab and Karataka.
India remains the biggest gap for Telekom Malaysia in south Asia. The company has been expanding regionally to reduce its dependence on a maturing home market. it already has operations in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Telekom Malaysia suffered a setback last year when it tried to buy a stake in India's Idea Cellular in a joint bid with Singapore's ST Telemedia, a company owned by state-controlled investment agency Temasek.
Indian regulators blocked the deal because Temasek-owned Singapore Telecommunications already has a stake in Bharti TeleVentures, India's biggest mobile operator. An investment by another Temasek affiliate in Idea Cellular would violate rules on foreign ownership in telecoms.
In a statement to Bursa Malaysia, the Malaysian stock exchange, Telekom Malaysia did not reveal the size of the stake it was seeking in Spice.
India is one of the world's fastest growing mobile phone markets and foreign operators are eager to enter it because the penetration for rate mobile usage is still low. India has raised the foreign ownership limit on local telecom operators to 74 per cent.
Spice has also been mentioned as a potential investment target for Maxis Communications, Malaysia's biggest mobile operator. "Maxis continues to have discussions with various parties. An appropriate announcement will be made in due course as and when definitive agreements have been reached with any party," Maxis said recently, without identifying any potential partners.
Spice is 51 per cent owned by India's BK Modi, with the rest held by Deutsche Bank and Ashmore Investment Management.
Maxis bought 74 per cent of Aircel, the Indian mobile operator, in December in a $1.08bn joint-venture takeover with India's Apollo Hospital Enterprises.
Another FT Syndication Service report by Mike Scott from London adds: Businesses, investors and governments need to change their attitude and approach to risk in the face of a new range of global threats, according to a new report for the World Economic Forum.
The risks companies face in 2006 include fears over the price of oil, the effects of diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria and the impact of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami, says the report, produced for the WEF's Global Risk Foruin by Mercer Oliver Wyman, Merrill Lynch and Swiss Re.
In addition, "high impact headline risks, such as terrorism and an influenza pandemic" will remain centre stage while "other risks, like climate change ... have begun to move to the centre of the policy debate". Events in 2005 such as Hurricane Katrina, the threat of bird flu and the terrorist bombs in London demonstrated "no-one can succeed alone in dealing effectively with global risks."
The public and private sectors need to collaborate more, the report said. Christian Pedersen, of consultancy Mercer Oliver Wyman, called for governments to become more like businesses in their approach, appointing independent chief risk officers who could interact with global counterparts to identify the main challenges to the world economy.
Companies also have to factor risk into strategic planning, said David Frediani, of Marsh & McLerman. "Some organisations are doing this."


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