Robi, Airtel seek Bangladesh regulators' greenlight for merger

Robi, Airtel seek Bangladesh regulators’ greenlight for merger


Mobile-phone operators Robi and Airtel have sought permission from telecoms regulators BTRC for a merger that could create Bangladesh’s second biggest wireless carrier behind Norwegian giant Telenor’s Grameenphone.

In a letter, the operators said Malaysia’s Axiata Group and NTT DoCoMo Inc of Japan would have 75 percent share and India’s Bharti Airtel would have the rest after the tie-up.

Robi Managing Director and CEO Supun Weerasinghe and Airtel Bangladesh Managing Director and CEO PD Sarma signed the letter.

A copy of the letter was also sent to the Posts and Telecommunications Division.

The operators in the letter said the code for Airtel numbers (016) would remain unchanged, but the merged operator would stop issuing numbers with this code after three years.

The letter said the subscribers would not face any problem because of the amalgamation; they would rather get improved service.

On Sep 9, the two operators said they were discussing possibilities of merging business operations.

They said the discussion for combining businesses of Robi Axiata Limited and Airtel Bangladesh Limited was at primary stage.

There were 128.7 million mobile-phone subscribers in Bangladesh until July, according to government data. Of them, Robi has 27.9 million subscribers and Airtel 9 million.

If the two operators merge, they will become the second largest operator in Bangladesh in terms of subscribers, overtaking Banglalink, owned by Egypt’s Global Telecom, which has more than 32 million subscribers.

Robi Vice President (Communications and Corporate Responsibility) Ekram Kabir told the letter was a part of unifying businesses after the discussion.

Airtel public relations wing head Shamit Mahbub Shahabuddin declined comment on the issue.

State Minister for Posts and Telecommunications Tarana Halim said she did not receive any such letter.

She, however, welcomed the move.

“I think it will create a good competition in the market,” she said.

A top BTRC official, requesting anonymity, said the commission would discuss the matter in a meeting on Sep 30.

Axiata is one of the leading telecom companies in Asia with operations in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Singapore, and India.

In the second quarter of 2015, Robi announced it had an investment of Tk 155.8 billion in Bangladesh.

It is providing services through 8,119 sites, including 2,450 3.5G sites.

Axiata Group and its associate companies have over 260 million mobile subscribers in Asia. It earned 18.7 billion Malaysian ringgit last year.

Bharti Airtel ventured into Bangladesh in 2010 after acquiring 70 percent stake in Warid Telecom. Three years later, Bharti Airtel Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of Singapore-based Bharti Airtel, acquired the remaining 30 percent.

Currently, Airtel has the fourth-largest subscriber base in Bangladesh among six mobile operators.

Grameenphone has the largest subscriber base of 53.9 million, government data showed.


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