Telenor and Axiata pull the plug on mega-merger

Operator groups Telenor and Axiata had intended to merge their Asian operations but have now decided it’s just too much hassle.

The proposed merger was announced back in May. “We are on the verge of making a new history,” said Axiata Group CEO Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, at the time. “This proposed mega merger of equals would create a Global Champion, headquartered right here in Malaysia.”

But by the time we got to Axiata’s quarterlies last week, there was talk that the move was set to fall through. Ibrahim wasted little time in scotching those rumours, insisting that the talks were still on track, but that they were always bound to take a while due to the complexity of the deal.

Well now it looks like that priced-in complexity is the reason for the whole deal collapsing, respite recent reassurances to the contrary. “Over the last four months, both parties have been working on due diligence and finalising transaction agreements to be completed within the third quarter of 2019,” said the short announcement. “Due to some complexities involved in the Proposed Transaction, the parties have mutually agreed to end the discussions.”

This is pretty embarrassing for both companies. Of course due diligence needs to be followed but what could have taken them four months to uncover? No more details have been revealed but you have to assume that either some corporate skeletons in the closet were uncovered or one of the parties involved has gone off the whole idea for some reason.

Axiata buys 13,000 Pakistan towers from Jazz for $940 million

Malaysian telco Axiata, via its subsidiary Edotco, is buying the tower business of the largest Pakistani operator Jazz.

The deal involves a whole bunch of holding companies and subsidiaries. Axiata’s tower subsidiary Edotco is technically doing the buying via its Pakistani subsidiary Tanzanite, while Jazz is actually selling its wholly-owned tower company, Deodar. Jazz was formed from the merger of Mobilink and Warid and is co-owned by Veon and Global Telecom Holding. The acquisition is being done in partnership with Pakistani investment group Dawood Hercules. Clear enough?

“We are pleased to be able to consolidate our expansion into Pakistan with this acquisition,” said Suresh Sidhu, CEO of Edotco. “The acquisition of Deodar is a critical part of our growth strategy and ambition to position Edotco as the leading independent telecommunications infrastructure services provider in Asia.”

“This transaction is highly value accretive for Veon and GTH and a further execution of Veon’s asset light strategy,” said Jean-Yves Charlier, CEO of Veon. “It also reflects the start of a long-term partnership with a strong counterparty with significant experience in tower management.”

The $940 million deal is expected to close later this year and the 13,000 sites apparently elevate Edotco to eighth place among the world’s top tower companies. It will presumably then change Jazz to use the towers so this seems to be a classic sell-and-lease-back deal.