13 Mei 2008
Court ruling on Temasek reveals govt mismanagement

Legal matters, however complex and technical, should also follow commensense logic.

To the laymen, the Central Jakarta Courts ruling Friday that the Singapore government-owned Temasek holdings and its subsidiaries breached anti-competition laws through minority cross-ownerships in PT Indosat and PT Telkomsel is both a worrisome and confusing logic.

Consider the following facts

Fact I: The Indonesian government-controlled PT Telkom owns 65 percent of Telkomsel and holds almost 15 percent of Indosat and a golden sharethat gives it special veto rights over corporate action, while Temasek indirectly holds only 35 percent of Telkomsel and almost 31 percent of Indosat.

Yet the court upheld the ruling by the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) last November declaring Temasek guilty of violating article 27 of the anti-trust law which prohibits a business group from owning majority stakes in companies operating in the same business activities which result in the control of more than 50 percent of the market.

Temasek therefore was ordered to sell all its stake in either Indosat or Telkomsel or halve its holdings in both cellular companies within 12 months.

Fact II: The boards of Indosat and Telkomsel include representatives of the Indonesian government and many prominent Indonesian businessmen who would have been aware of the operational and business issues at the respective cellular phone operators. The majority of Indosats directors, including the chief executive officer, and the majority of Telkomsels directors and commissioners, are nominated by the Indonesian government.

Yet the court decided that Temasek, through its cross-ownerships at both Indosat and Telkomsel, had controlled business decisions and corporate actions at both cellular operators.

Fact III Both Telkomsel and Indosat are regulated businesses, operating within the guidelines of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

Yet the court also upheld the KPPU ruling that Temasek and subsidiaries were guilty of monopolistic price fixing (article 17 of the anti-trust law).

The mind-boggling question then is this Have the government, the regulator, body and Minister of State Enterprises Sofyan Djalil been so ignorant or pathetic as to have allowed Temasek to commit all the anti-monopoly practices cited by the KPPU and the district court despite its minority shareholdings at both Indosat and Telkomsel?

If Temasek, despite its minority shareholdings, was able to commit all the business sins as concluded by the court and the KPPU, that should raise big questions over the management of dozens of other state companies which have foreign or domestic investors as minority shareholders.

Farther down the line, if the poor management and inadequate oversight of Indosat and Telkomsel, as revealed by the KPPU and the court rulings, is typical of the way the government treats state companies, then the Parliament should oppose the planned strategic sale of state-owned PT Krakatau Steel to either one of the foui- global steel giants - ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel and Essar, all from India, and Australias BlueScope Steel, which has been eying a stake of up to 40 percent in the countrys largest steel company.

Temasek will certainly appeal against the decisions at the Supreme Court. Since the KPPU also ordered divestment, the government should brace for a long legal battle as Temasek may bring up the case with the World Banks arbitration body, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Dispute, in Washington.

Simply throwing in the towel out of frustration with the court system here could be interpreted by the market as Temaseks admission of business sins at the expense of its reputation all over the world.

A ruined reputation would adversely affect Temasek investment operations overseas, investments on which this governments investment holdings have relied increasingly for income growth.

Hence, there is no other alternative for Temasek but to fight it out up to the Supreme Court even in spite of all the risks and uncertainty about the legal proceedings and final results.

Until a credible appeal verdict - favoring either side - is issued, the case will continue to cast a long shadow over Indonesias legal system and the KPPU as an independent body responsible for enforcing the 1999 competition law, which serves as the constitution of the market mechanism.

Source :  The Jakarta Post, Page : 2

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