Norway’s Telenor and Malaysia’s Axiata, the parent companies of Bangladesh’s top two mobile operators, yesterday announced that they were in talks to combine their Asian operations.
If the merger becomes successful, they will create a company with 300 million customers in nine countries, sales of about $13 billion and earnings of about $5.5 billion.
“Telenor and Axiata are in discussions on joining forces in Asia, one of the most dynamic and innovative regions in the world. Together, we aim to create a leading and well-diversified pan-Asian telecom and infrastructure company with substantial synergy potential and strong regional operations,” Gunn Wærsted, chair of Telenor Group, said in a statement.
Anticipating resistance from the telecom watchdog, Robi, Axiata’s subsidiary in Bangladesh that it co-owns with Bharti Airtel and NTT Docomo, was not offered as part of the deal.
Both Grameenphone and Robi will continue their business in Bangladesh separately.
Mobile infrastructure provider edotco Bangladesh, in which Axiata Group has 70 percent stakes, is part of the arrangement though, meaning there can be potential gains for Grameenphone, which is 55.8 percent owned by Telenor at present.
In the merged company, Telenor will hold 56.5 percent stakes and Axiata the remaining 43.5 percent.
But Axiata is unlikely to take a seat on the Grameenphone board, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Daily Star upon condition of anonymity.
A deal is expected by the third quarter, but the companies said that there is no certainty that the discussions will result in an agreement.
Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, chief executive officer and managing director of Robi, met with Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Chairman Md Jahurul Haque yesterday to brief him on the developments.
“Right now we have no information about the negotiations, so we cannot comment on the matter,” Haque said.
Grameenphone, which is listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange, closed 4.96 percent lower at Tk 359.40 yesterday.
The operator is the clear leader in Bangladesh, followed by Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk.