SingTel traces its heritage back to 1879 when Singapore became one of the first cities in the East to have telephone service, three years after Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention. At that time, a Mr Bennet Pell started a private telephone exchange which had 50 lines.
Until the mid-1950s, telephone services in Singapore were managed by British interests. In 1955, the Singapore Telephone Board (STB) was incorporated as a statutory board with exclusive rights to operate telephone service within Singapore. This was followed by the merger of STB and Telecommunications Authority of Singapore (TAS) in 1974. Up until that time, STB was responsible for local services, while TAS provided international services. 1982 saw the merger of the Postal Department with Telecoms.
In 1988, a subsidiary, Singapore Telecom International, was formed. This marked the beginning of SingTel’s expansion into overseas markets. The corporatisation of SingTel in 1992 was followed by its Initial Public Offering a year later. It remains Singapore’s largest ever IPO.
The Singapore telecoms market was fully liberalised in April 2000. Despite the competitive environment, SingTel continues to maintain its leadership position in the Singapore market. SingTel operates slightly under 2 million direct exchange lines, which translates to one line for every two persons in Singapore. As at 31 March 2006, SingTel is also the leading mobile operator in Singapore with a 43%market share for postpaid, and leads the broadband Internet market with a 53% market share.
In the last couple of years, SingTel has significantly transformed its business. In 2001, SingTel concluded its largest overseas investment ever, with the acquisition of Optus - the second largest telecommunications provider in Australia. It also invested in Telkomsel in Indonesia, the Bharti Group in India, Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Ltd and increased its stake in Globe Telecom in the Philippines. As at 31 March 2006, SingTel and its associates had 85 million customers. This is the largest mobile customer base in Asia outside of China.
In an effort to focus on its core telecommunications services business, SingTel sold 69% of Singapore Post (SingPost) in an Initial Public Offering in May 2003. SingPost was listed on Singapore Exchange on 13 May 2003. SingTel also divested its stake in Yellow Pages, its directory business, in June 2003 to CVC Asia Pacific and J.P. Morgan Partners Asia for S$220 million in cash.