Axiata CEO says in talks to buy smaller Indonesia telecom rival

FILE PHOTO - A security officer guards in front of the Axiata headquarters building in Kuala Lumpur May 28, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said

Malaysian telecommunications company Axiata Group Bhd is in talks to buy a smaller rival in Indonesia in a share-swap deal to cut costs and competition in its biggest market, as COVID-19 hammers businesses, its CEO told Reuters.

After PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk, Axiata unit PT XL Axiata Tbk is the second-biggest player by subscriber numbers in Southeast Asia’s most populous country. Axiata is followed by PT Indosat Tbk, PT Smartfren Telecom Tbk and the local telco unit of Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.

“Except for the biggest player, I can tell you right now we are talking to all for some kind of an arrangement,” Axiata Chief Executive Jamaludin Ibrahim told Reuters in an interview on Saturday over Microsoft Teams, declining to specify a target.

“I can’t imagine buying two, and you don’t need to anyway.”

PT Indosat, with a market capitalisation of 10.68 trillion rupiah ($727 million), PT Smartfren, valued at 21 trillion rupiah (1.2 billion pounds), and the local unlisted business of Hutchison, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jamaludin said Axiata Group, with a market capitalisation of about $8 billion, had done some due diligence last year, and information from that could be “partially” useful if a deal were to materialise this year.

Jamaludin, who retires later this year, said Axiata was looking for deals in Malaysia and Sri Lanka too. The company also operates in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and the Philippines.

“I hope before I retire, at least one country happens. Either Malaysia, Indonesia or Sri Lanka,” he said. “COVID-19 makes it more a necessity to consolidate, even more than before, and therefore to discuss with all parties becomes quite imperative.”

Axiata, majority-owned by Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd and other state-linked funds, in September called off talks with Norway’s Telenor ASA for a non-cash deal to create Southeast Asia’s largest telecoms operator. No reason was given for ending the talks.

“We are not ruling out” further talks with Telenor, Jamaludin said, “but at this point of time we are not discussing seriously with them.”

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.