By Steven Scheer
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, the largest telecoms company in southeast Asia, plans to acquire more high-tech firms, including in Israel, as it transforms itself into a multimedia and information and communications technology company.
"We are interested in investing in startups addressing major trends as well as the rise of social and local networks, mobile advertising and the increased need for systems that use smartphone applications," Allen Lew, chief executive of SingTel's new Digital Life unit, said at the annual High Tech Industry Association conference in Jerusalem.
"Israel is an important part of our golden plans for the digital space. We will be making strategic acquisitions and we will be partnering with companies here," he said.
SingTel in March bought Amobee Inc, an Israeli mobile advertising solutions firm, for $321 million.
Lew said the company has a venture capital fund of S$200 million ($162.7 million) to invest in global start-ups.
SingTel, the world's second-largest mobile operator behind China Mobile with 462 million customers in 26 countries, earlier this year set up a new structure to raise its presence in content and mobile applications as companies like Apple Inc grab more revenues from mobile phone users globally.
Lew said the firm needs to enter into complementary partnerships with other telecoms groups to give SingTel the "best chance for continued success".
One key focus for SingTel, he said, will be in television services and delivering more personalized and relevant but fewer choices to customers in developed countries after analyzing viewing behavior. For customers in emerging markets such as India and Indonesia who cannot afford TV at home, SingTel - which has 8 million pay TV subscribers - plans to provide TV services via smartphones.
"In developing markets ... the mobile device is the only device they use to access the Internet and get information," Lew said.
Another area of focus for SingTel is mobile advertising, where users can receive targeted offers and coupons while advertisers also reap financial benefits.
Lew said SingTel must make changes since the largest telecom companies with deep pockets were creating new competition for digital services and trying to lure away its customers. ($1 = 1.2293 Singapore dollars)
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)