SK Telecom To Sell Control Of Handset Division

SK Telecom is the largest wireless carrier in Korea, and owns a handset making subsidiary, SK Teletech. SK Teletech has been very useful for SK Telecom in remaining a leader in wireless services, because SKT used the handset arm to produce advanced and specialized handsets that the major handset vendors would not make (on agreeable terms). When I worked for SKT, I saw how very closely the handset business would collaborate with the carrier to make phones that matched upcoming data services. Thus, not only did SKT use the handset division to make the devices, but they also were able to use it as a bargaining chip: “Samsung, make this and sell it to me, or I’ll make it myself.” The end result is that the Teletech subsidiary has gained skills and experience at making high-end complex phones. Now, SKT is selling the controlling interest in Teletech to Korean handset ODM Pantech and Curitel for US$300M. The sale is strategic, since Pantech can move upscale, Teletech can focus on handsets and increase its global sales team, and SKT can still leverage a minority stake to get advanced devices.

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