Wed, Aug 30, 2017 - Page 12 News List

Axiata nearing deal on Pakistan’s Veon towers


Axiata Group Bhd, the biggest Malaysian mobile operator, is nearing a deal to acquire Veon Ltd’s Pakistan wireless towers for about US$1 billion, people familiar with the matter said.

Edotco Group Sdn, Axiata’s infrastructure arm, plans to announce an agreement as soon as this week, the people said.

The purchase of about 13,000 towers would make Edotco the biggest independent telecommunications tower operator in the South Asian nation, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Axiata has been pursuing overseas deals as it seeks to reduce reliance on a home market where it is losing subscribers and average customer revenue is flattening.

Any deal will add to the US$3.1 billion of acquisitions announced in Pakistan over the past 12 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The acquisition would help Kuala Lumpur-based Axiata meet a goal of expanding its overseas infrastructure operations ahead of an eventual listing of the business.

Axiata wants to increase its phone towers in Southeast Asia and South Asia from 16,000 to 26,000 within three years, CEO Jamaludin Ibrahim said in an interview last year.

Axiata shares have fallen 12 percent over the past year, giving the company a market value of US$10.2 billion.

A representative for Edotco said he could not immediately comment, while a spokesman for Veon’s Pakistan unit declined to comment.

Axiata last year bought control of Nepalese operator Ncell Pvt for US$1.4 billion. It also has interests in Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Axiata earlier this month said that Edotco had completed the US$89 million purchase of Tanzanite Tower Pvt, which owns about 700 phone towers in Pakistan.

Veon said earlier this month it was in advanced talks to sell its Pakistan tower business to an unnamed buyer.

A deal could come as soon as the second half of this year, Veon CEO Jean-Yves Charlier said in an interview last month.

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