Singapore’s largest telecoms provider, SingTel, plans to set aside $1.6 billion (S$2 billion) over the next three years for startup acquisitions. Like those it has made in recent years, these are expected to be in the digital media space.
All of these can be tracked back to the major restructuring of SingTel’s business arms last year, where it divided itself into three pillars called Consumer, ICT and Digital Life.
The first two focus on consumer and enterprise segments, respectively, but the Digital Life arm is most representative of the change. The division was set up as a reaction to over-the-top competition from third party content providers, and SingTel said Digital Life was going to compete head on, providing smart TV, digital magazines and local content.
Some of acquisitions so far include restaurant review sites, Hungrygowhere and Eatability, and photo app Pixable.
SingTel has also been bullish as a VC. In 2010, it set up a separate venture arm called Innov8 to specifically look at acquisitions that would boost its current play in the telecoms arena. Innov8 was set up with an initial fund size of $160 million (S$200 million), and has since acquired firms like mobile ad company Amobee.
SingTel runs telecoms operations in other countries in the region, like Optus in Australia. It has significant stakes in other carriers like Globe in The Philippines (44 percent), Bharti in India (32 percent) and Telkomsel in Indonesia (35 percent). Altogether, its operations in the region cover about 400 million mobile subscribers.
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