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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

The Call to Battle

"We will compete vigorously"


(Munshi Ahmed for Asiaweek)
LEE HSIEN YANG has honed his combat and strategic skills in his 20 years in active duty with the Singapore armed forces. Lee Kuan Yew's youngest son needs them. As president and CEO of the Singapore Telecom Group, he is facing intense competition at home with the entry of cellular phone newcomer MobilOne. Lee, who holds the rank of reserve brigadier-general, recently spoke with Asiaweek's Santha Oorjitham. Excerpts:

People say Singapore Telecom has been profitable because it has been a monopoly for so long.

Many monopolies elsewhere have not done as well as we have, so that is not a very fair criticism. We feel we are very well regarded, both within the industry and by large multinational corporations. We believe that we have a strong position in the Singapore market and it is important that we continue to have a dominant position. No matter how many players are admitted into the domestic market, we intend to compete vigorously with them. We will continue to invest in our existing domestic network to ensure that we offer the highest quality and the most modern infrastructure to our customers here.

How about your investments in other countries?

Our focus is on Asia. But because of the uncertainties about which countries and which opportunities will become available, it is not possible to say, "I'm going to put my flag in all these locations one by one." Telecommunications is still an industry which is dependent on regulatory controls and how those rules are set out may clearly affect the viability of the business.

But you have not always been successful overseas.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. The fact that we did not get a license [in December to offer paging and mobile-phone services] in Taiwan does not mean that we will no longer bid for such opportunities. We will continue to look at smaller businesses where they make sense. We are also open to larger opportunities, such as Belgacom [in Belgium], in which we invested over $900 million. But to some extent, we want to ensure we have [a number of] investments, rather than just one very large one, because that provides more stability in the flow of earnings.

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