Malaysia's Axiata not in talks to raise its stake in Singapore's M1

M1's newly revamped store at IMM. Malaysia's Axiata Group Bhd is not in any negotiation to raise the regional telecommunication firm's stake in Singapore's M1 Ltd.
M1's newly revamped store at IMM. Malaysia's Axiata Group Bhd is not in any negotiation to raise the regional telecommunication firm's stake in Singapore's M1 Ltd.PHOTO: M1

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Axiata Group Bhd is not in any negotiation to raise the regional telecommunication firm's stake in Singapore's M1 Ltd.

This was confirmed to StarBiz by Axiata president and group chief executive Jamaludin Ibrahim. Axiata has a 28.57 per cent stake in M1, which provides both fixed and mobile telecommunication services in the island republic.

"I wish to be clear that Axiata is not currently in any negotiations with M1 to increase our stake further from the existing 28.57 per cent held," Tan Sri Jamaludin said.

"However, being one of the leading regional operators and a long-term investor in Asean and South Asia, we are always looking to consider any worthwhile opportunities in the region.

"This is subject to the right timing and pricing, among other important criteria and whether they meet our strategic merger and acquisition (M&A) objectives."

Earlier reports had indicated that Axiata was keen on increasing its stake in M1 as part of expansion plans in the region.

According to AmInvestment Bank, the M1 development followed as Keppel Corp was considering selling its 19.2 per cent equity stake in M1 as part of a strategy to dispose of non-core operations.

Axiata has held a stake since 2005, with M1 having delivered consistently good returns.

Apart from Singapore, Axiata has controlling stakes in local telecommunication firms in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Mr Jamaludin reiterated the company's plans in expanding its telecommunication tower infrastructure business through edotco Group Sdn Bhd via M&As.

"We are keen to consider inorganic expansions outside our existing footprint.

"The target market of Asean and South Asia region remains, which is in line with our continuous effort to further drive long-term growth in these areas," he said.

edotco, the world's 12th-largest independent tower company, manages 16,800 towers with a portfolio spanning across Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

As for its mobile business, Axiata's focus has been on in-country mobile consolidation by taking controlling stakes in network operators across Asean and South Asia.

In-country consolidations allow Axiata to solidify its position, unlock market profitability and synergy opportunities as well as ensure sustainable long-term growth.

The company began strengthening existing operations and market position through consolidation exercises in 2013, in Sri Lanka between Dialog and Suntel, followed by Sky Television and Radio, and later in Cambodia with Smart and Hello. In 2014, XL and Axis in Indonesia were also consolidated.

Axiata has also since ventured into the highly competitive Bangladesh market with Robi and Airtel.

The company had received approval for the proposed merger of Robi Axiata Ltd and Airtel Bangladesh Ltd from the Bangladesh High Court on Aug 31.

"The proposed merger is expected to be completed by fourth quarter of 2016.

"Both parties are currently working towards this," said Mr Jamaludin.

The completion of the proposed merger will be subject to the fulfilment of specific conditions mandated by the High Court and completion of conditions precedent in the merger agreement.