BANGKOK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Thailand's telecoms regulator extended the auction for two 4G spectrum licences for a third day on Thursday amid fierce competition which raised the bids to $2.71 billion, higher than the selling price for the first set of licences.
Market leader Advanced Info Service and third-ranked True Corp, the companies that bought the 4G licences in a November auction, are bidding against second-ranked Total Access Communication Pcl, controlled by Norway's Telenor, and broadband provider Jasmine International.
Analysts said the fierce competition indicated that Jasmine, which does not have a mobile operation, needed a licence to secure future growth, while True and AIS were keen to prevent another company from eating into their market share.
Shares in the telecoms companies participating in the auction fell sharply on Wednesday due to concerns that a fierce contest that pushed up bidding prices will hurt their profits.
At 0220 GMT, total bids stood at 97.53 billion baht ($2.71 billion), with 47.96 billion baht for first licence and 49.57 billion baht for second. Bidding will continue until 1400 GMT unless a winner - the company that bids the highest and remains uncontested - is declared.
To give more financial flexibility to bidders, the regulator has offered winners in the second auction to pay the bulk of the licence's price in the fourth year, official Pravit Leestapornvongsa said.
Winners in November auction have to pay half of bidding prices within 90 days after receiving the licences. ($1 = 36.0400 baht) (Additional reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn; Editing by Miral Fahmy)