SingTel Mobile, Virgin in pan-Asian venture

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SINGAPORE--SingTel Mobile and Virgin Management plan to create a billion-dollar joint venture offering cellular services throughout most of Asia and Internet services in Singapore.

Virgin Mobile (Asia), to be headquartered in Singapore, is expected to roll out services in the first quarter of 2001 and will initially target Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Virgin Mobile will function as a regional virtual mobile network operator, buying cellular airtime from a leading local cellular service provider in each market, such as SingTel Mobile in Singapore. It will, however, manage its own marketing, billing and customer care functions. In Singapore, the company will also offer narrow and broadband Internet services.

Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson says: "Following the expansion of Virgin Atlantic Airways into the Asian market and our retailing successes in Japan, we decided at the end of last year that the time was right to expand Virgin's presence in Asia. There are no existing regional brands in mobile telephony in Asia; indeed, there are no global consumer brands in the mobile business, and it is our ambition to become the first."

SingTel Mobile, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), has 19 overseas offices in 14 countries and investments worth more than $3.5 billion.

Virgin (Asia) Management was recently formed to develop, invest in and supervise the growth of new businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on e-commerce, telecommunications and retail activities.

Copyright May 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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