Comba looks beyond China for diversification

Comba looks beyond China for diversification
Wilson Tong, group financial controller, Comba Telecom

For many expanding companies in Hong Kong, the mainland China market is not just an important focus, but critical to their future prosperity. However, Wilson Tong, group financial controller and executive director at Hong Kong-based Comba Telecom, a global supplier of wireless solutions, believes that while China is an important market for the company, its diversification plans include conquering other markets.

Tong talks to FinanceAsia about Comba Telecom’s philosophy of never refusing a good business opportunity.

Please describe Comba Telecom and your role at the company.

Comba Telecom was established in 1997 and has been listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since 2003. The company is a global provider of wireless enhancement solutions, antennae and subsystems, wireless access and is ranked as the number one wireless solutions and antennae provider in Asia-Pacific by the International Data Corporation. Our major customers in the China market are China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. We have more than 30 provincial offices and 200 branch offices in China and additional offices in Brazil, Dubai, India, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand and the US. About 85% of our revenue is generated from China and the remaining 15% is from overseas markets.

I have been executive director and group financial controller at Comba Telecom for more than two and a half years and my major focus areas are treasury functions, investor relations, public relations and financial and cash management as well as company secretarial matters.

How are your treasury operations coordinated?

We have two regional finance offices, one located here in Hong Kong which is responsible for all the overseas business and one in Guangzhou, China, for all our mainland Chinese business. One of the reasons we have finance headquarters in two different locations is because of the currency that our revenue is generated in. We receive a lot of renminbi since 85% of our business is from China, and it is not easy to move large amounts of renminbi in and out of China, so we need to have a local finance office to deal with all the regional Chinese operations.

For our treasury functions we actually use an in-house enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and also a database system provided by Oracle. In addition we use an internet banking portal provided by a major bank.

Comba Telecom has won the Forbes “Asia’s 200 best under a billion” award for two consecutive years, 2009 and 2010. Can you comment on how the finance team has contributed to this success?

Comba Telecom has always been doing very well. I think one of the most successful things we have done, since I joined, has been to increase the transparency of the company. Our finance team strives to make the company more transparent in terms of annual and interim reports and also improving transparency via clearer communication between the company and its shareholders. When I joined Comba Telecom, I sought to enhance the communication channel to our shareholders, fund managers and financial analysts and other business associates.

What can we expect from Comba Telecom?

We are building new 3G networks in mainland China by providing and supplying a lot of voice and data wireless enhancement and coverage solutions, we believe 2G and 3G will ultimately co-exist. Our long-term strategy is in the overseas markets such as South America, India, Indonesia, Thailand and even Taiwan. Of course, we are also ready for future technological evolutions and are developing solutions for the 4G network standards to meet customer needs.

Although 85% of our current business is generated in China we never refuse a business opportunity and believe the growth of overseas markets to be very important in the upcoming years. Of course we will continue to focus on the Chinese market, but we aim to diversify our business as we cannot be too concentrated in one particular country or on one particular customer. It is our intention to manage risk and to diversify.

Being a company involved in the telecommunications industry, what is Comba Telecom’s view on corporate mobile banking?

Corporate mobile banking will definitely be a trend for the future but it is necessary to have secure networks that provide reliable coverage. It is not uncommon to have bad signal in certain locations and this will be a serious disadvantage for anyone using this kind of service. However, it is still too early to tell if we can benefit from it as we have only began using internet banking for a few years.

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