In an update of the Robi Axiata-Airtel merger, both companies have formally applied to the telecom regulator in Bangladesh for permission to merge their operations, which will create the second largest mobile operator network in the South Asian country after Grameenphone.
Bangladeshi media The Daily Star said both the operators plan to start the integration process next week, with the view to completing the merger by January next year, according to senior executives of Robi and Airtel.
To recap, Bharti Airtel Ltd, the world’s third largest telco by subscribers, had three weeks ago entered into exclusive discussions with Malaysia’s Axiata Group Berhad to explore a possible merger of their respective telecom units in Bangladesh, Robi Axiata Ltd and Airtel Bangladesh Ltd.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) spokesperson Md Sarwar Alam said: “We received a joint application. The approval process will start in a short while.”
The merger will also require the government approval, on top of the regulator’s recommendation, to go through, he added.
As per the joint application, Robi and Airtel’s spectrum will be allocated to the merged entity. The necessary changes and arrangements in numbers will be attained without imposing any costs to customers, according to the letter.
Robi will have a 75 per cent stake in the merged entity and Airtel 25 per cent, according to the joint application signed by Robi chief executive Supun Weerasinghe, and Airtel Bangladesh managing director PD Sarma, to the telecom regulator.
Of Robi’s 75 per cent stake, 70 per cent will be owned by Axiata Group, Robi’s Malaysia-based parent company, and 5 per cent by Japan’s NTT DOCOMO.
Currently, Axiata Group’s has a 91.59 per cent stake in Robi while NTT DOCOMO holds 8.41 per cent.
As of July, Robi’s customer base stood at 2.79 crore and Airtel’s approximately 91 lakh, the online website reported, citing BTRC data. The combined entity will have the second largest subscriber base in Bangladesh. Grameenphone, the largest operator, has 5.3 crore subscribers.
After the merger, Banglalink, the second largest operator with 3.2 crore subscribers, will come under tremendous pressure from competitors.