Picking Up The Pieces

by S. Dinakar, Forbes.com, 09.05.05

Singapore Telecom's regional ambitions are looking smarter now. The turnaround is starkly evident at Optus in Australia. Lee Hsien Yang's vision mirrors that of his father, Lee Kuan Yew, who, as Singapore's first prime minister, transformed it from a tropical slum in the 1960s into a regional economic powerhouse. Lee, his youngest son, wants to turn Singapore Telecommunications, the island nation's biggest company, into a regional telecom powerhouse.

The son's voyage into emerging markets is expensive and risky -- buying stakes in Asian telcos in 1999-2002 cost nearly $10 billion, driving SingTel into debt. The stock suffered, sliding to 92 cents (U.S.) per share, less than half of what foreign investors paid when SingTel listed on the Singapore bourse in 1993.

But Lee stands vindicated today in his efforts to convert a sleepy state monopoly into a nimble Pan-Asian telecom carrier. The stock now trades at $1.60. His forays into foreign lands are beginning to pay off.

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Eric Friedebach /And now it's time for: Jaromir Weather/

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