Malaysia's Axiata in US$600 million deal with Khazanah, Japanese firm

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysian mobile network operator Axiata said that sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ) will take stakes in its telecom infrastructure services unit, edotco, as part of a US$600 million (S$857.4 million) deal.

Announcing the plan on Tuesday, Axiata said it would remain the majority shareholder in edotco group. It also said it could list edotco on the stock market, but not until late 2018 at the earliest, dismissing media reports that it was considering an IPO next year.

"We will look at any plans maybe late 2018 or after," edotco Chief Executive Suresh Sidhu told a news conference.

It was not immediately clear what size stakes Khazanah and INCJ, a Japanese investment firm that is partially publicly owned, will take in edotco, which prior to this deal was 100 percent owned by Axiata.

Under the agreement, edotco will raise up to US$400 million in a private placement of new ordinary shares to INCJ. Axiata said it had also reached agreement for Khazanah to purchase US$200 million worth of existing edotco shares and that the money raised would help cut Axiata's debt.

edotco operates and manages a regional portfolio of over 25,000 telecom towers across Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, directly operating 17,000 of the towers.

Mr Sidhu said final stake sizes would be announced in January. "Axiata will retain more than 50 percent in the company in the foreseeable future as well," Axiata President and Group CEO Jamaludin Ibrahim told the same news conference.

Axiata is Malaysia's largest mobile operator by market value.

In June, edotco launched a maiden US$100 million three-year term loan, for refinancing, working capital and capital expenditure purposes.

In October 2015, edotco acquired a 75 per cent stake in Digicel Group's Myanmar venture for US$221 million cash, part of its long-term strategy to create new revenue streams away from the core mobile business.