OCK Group’s vision to build a pan-Asian tower company

Founder Sam Ooi  shares insight into their footprint in Malaysia, entry into Vietnam, and contract with Telenor Myanmar

Read this article to learn:

  • OCK Group’s credentials as a listed full turnkey service provider
  • The business case for OCK’s acquisition of SEATH and their 1,938 towers in Vietnam
  • How OCK Group proposes to sustain a competitive lease rate in Myanmar
  • OCK Group’s plans for future growth in Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and beyond

Having drawn considerable attention by securing a contract to build 920 towers for Telenor Myanmar late last year, Malaysia’s OCK Group has shaken up the Asian tower market once again with its acquisition of Southeast Asia Telecommunications Holdings Pte Ltd (SEATH) and their 1,938 towers for US$50mn. This is the largest tower transaction to date in the Vietnamese market, and we caught up with Sam Ooi, MD of OCK Group to find out more about his company, this exciting new deal, their activities in Myanmar and their pan-Asian vision.

TowerXchange: As this is our first interview with OCK Group, could you share some background on your company – how the business is financed, your credentials in Malaysia, your vision to form a tower company across multiple Asian countries?

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

OCK Group Berhad is Malaysia’s foremost telecommunications network service provider, listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad.

Since its incorporation in 2000, the Group has evolved from a maintenance and engineering (“M&E”) company to a full turnkey solutions provider with four key business divisions covering telecommunication network services, green energy and power solutions, M&E engineering services and trading of telecommunication and network products.

With more than 2,600 employees, OCK remains dedicated to its vision of becoming the service partner of choice for telecommunication services across Southeast Asia.  We serve the majority of the telecom companies in Malaysia. The Group has been strategically expanding its presence across Southeast Asia and continues to position itself in key emerging economies such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and China.

TowerXchange: Please tell us about your role at OCK and the experience you bring the team.

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

I founded OCK in 2000, drove it towards listing on the Main Board of Bursa Malaysia, and led its development into the foremost telecommunications service provider in Malaysia.

Our Group CEO Yap Wai Khee joined OCK in early 2015. Wai Khee has over 21 years of experience in strategy and commercials, with 16 years in the telecommunications industry. He has acted in senior management roles for several telecom companies within this region. At OCK, we have a highly experienced management team with many years of experience in the telecoms industry that has contributed to the company’s success.

TowerXchange: How does the tower construction and leasing business fit into your business model?

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

Our telecommunications network services business is the largest contributor to OCK Group’s revenue, and it our intention to grow this business further by expanding our construction and/or leasing of telecommunication towers.

We were granted with a Network Facilities Provider (Class) license by the Malaysian regulator, and own 133 sites in Malaysia.

We started to expand overseas by securing a master lease agreement for the construction and lease of up to 920 towers in Myanmar last year and were granted a Network Facilities Services (Class) license by the Myanmar government. And just last week we announced our entry into Vietnam.

OCK

TowerXchange: Congratulations on the announcement of OCK Group’s acquisition of SEATH. What attracted your company to invest in this portfolio and in the Vietnamese market?

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

We have been evaluating the telecom tower industry in Vietnam, as this country is expected to have one of the greatest mobile broadband growth rates within the next few years, coupled with the rollout of 4G/LTE network later this year/next year.

SEATH is the largest independent tower company in Vietnam, and it is a profitable business; it will immediately contribute financially to OCK Group, and allows us to tap into the Vietnamese market.

SEATH is the largest independent tower company in Vietnam, and it is a profitable business; it will immediately contribute financially to OCK Group, and allows us to tap into the Vietnamese market

TowerXchange: Can you share some insights into the portfolio you are acquiring from Vietnam Infrastructure Ltd (VNI)? We understand they have 1,938 sites – what is the mix of ground based towers to rooftops and any DAS or microcell poles? Who are the principal tenants on those sites?

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

Most of the towers are guyed mast towers which may be ground based or on rooftops. The key tenants are Mobifone, Vinaphone and Vietnamobile.

TowerXchange: Could you share some insight into OCK Group’s plans for further acquisitions or new builds in Vietnam?

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

We are open to explore discussions with existing tower companies in Vietnam as we feel the tower industry is highly fragmented. In addition, the upcoming launch of 4G in Vietnam will also increase demand for new towers in Vietnam.

TowerXchange: OCK has come to market at a very competitive lease rate in Myanmar – what innovations will you use to ensure you can build and maintain towers at this price point?

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

OCK is a full turnkey solutions provider, and we are able to leverage our expertise from other countries into Myanmar, resulting in a lower cost to build and maintain towers. These benefits are passed on to our valued customers.

TowerXchange: We understand that towercos in Vietnam provide just the structure and land (“steel and grass”) whereas in Myanmar a full service (“tower and power”) is the norm. Which business model are OCK most comfortable with? And will you source and maintain your own power equipment in Myanmar or outsource to third parties?

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

We are capable of providing a complete suite of services to our customers, and we are comfortable with any arrangements which may be unique to a particular country.

OCK performs network operations maintenance and/or managed services to approximately 25,000 towers in this region, and we are assessing the market in Myanmar too.

TowerXchange: Considering OCK Group’s presence in Myanmar and now Vietnam, are there plans for further expansion in the region? Which other markets are being evaluated?

Sam Ooi, MD, OCK Group:

We own tower assets in Malaysia and Myanmar, and with SEATH, we will own tower assets in Vietnam too.

OCK is a full turnkey contractor in Cambodia, where we are involved in tower construction and fibre rollout. In Indonesia we focus mainly on managing active and passive infrastructure for telecom networks.

We will continuously evaluate opportunities within the ASEAN region.

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