One More Thing: Could O’Brien and Digicel still win in Burma?

 

Denis O’Brien couldn’t yet salvage a functioning mobile phone business in Burma, could he?

“We were crying our eyes out,” O’Brien said in September, of Digicel’s failure to land one of the two mobile licences up for grabs. After dabbing his eyes for a day or two, he set about keeping his company in the tent.

Digicel this week announced its Burma mast network, assembled for the ill-fated bid alongside George Soros and Serge Pun, will be used by Qatari outfit Ooredoo, one of the winners. It will also be open for use by Telenor or MPT, the state incumbent, if they want it.

Word flowed to us this week that Digicel is in fact doing an awful lot more for Ooredoo than just giving it access to its mast towers. So what else is Digicel doing for its erstwhile bidding rival? “Everything on the ground,” said a source.

Digicel declined to comment on questions about its deepening relationship with Ooredoo because “these details are confidential”. There’s a confirmation if ever I saw one.

More than six months after Ooredoo and Telenor won the bidding process, the licences are yet to be still formally awarded.

Also, the Burma government says it is prepared to award a third licence to one of the losing bidders, if they go into partnership with MPT.

Should Digicel be the one to climb into bed with the well-entrenched state operator, then O’Brien’s tears of sadness could turn into a cascade of unrequited joy.

Now, that would be worth seeing.

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