From Regional Player to International Powerhouse - The Case of SingTel (A) (B)

From state-regulated monopoly to pan-Asian powerhouse, the Singaporean telecom SingTel has come a long way. In this two-part case study, Research Fellow Sarah Meegan and Professor Peter Williamson focus on SingTel’s mobile operations, asking you to consider the firm’s history, its acquisition of Optus, and the challenges it faces in managing its network of partnerships and executing its regional strategy.

by Peter Williamson, Sarah Meegan

In August 2001, Singapore’s largest telecommunications firm, SingTel, received approval from the Australian government to buy Optus, the second largest telecom in the land down under and its fastest growing mobile operator. The day marked just how far SingTel had come: once a national monopoly, it was now poised to become the leader of the Asian telecom industry.

In the first half of this two-part case study, Peter Williamson, INSEAD Professor of International Management and Asian Business, and INSEAD Research Fellow Sarah Meegan take you through the history of SingTel and its mobile division, examining the competition at the local, regional, and international levels, and reflecting on the impact of privatization on the Singaporean telecom industry.

The story begins in 1998 with the arrival of new SingTel Mobile CEO Lucas Chow, fresh from a stint as quality guru at Hewlett Packard. Chow arrives at a pivotal point in the company’s 120-year history. Formerly 78% government-owned, SingTel had traditionally relied on its monopoly status to drive growth. But by the late 1980s and 90s, under the direction of SingTel Group CEO Lee Hsien Yang, the company showed a strong interest in expansion, making investments outside of Singapore and becoming one of the few Asian companies to acquire shares in mobile phone and cable companies in Europe.

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