Business

Norway and Malaysia in talks to run joint telecoms

OSLO/KUALA LUMPUR : Norway's Telenor and Malaysia's Axiata Group are in talks to run a jointly owned telecoms giant in South and South-east Asia with nearly 300 million customers, looking to slash costs and expand in cut-throat markets.

The merged group would be worth $40 billion, including debt, making the deal the largest cross-border merger in Asia, excluding China and Japan, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

"The bottom line is we need the scale, we need the synergy, we need the balance sheet, we need the strong capabilities of both companies. If we can combine that, it will be powerful," Axiata president and group chief executive Jamaludin Ibrahim told a news conference yesterday.

The proposed deal would combine the two companies' South Asian and South-east Asian operations, with the Norwegian mobile operator to own 56.5 per cent and Axiata to own 43.5 per cent, and no cash changing hands, the companies said.

"With its unique portfolio, the MergedCo will be one of the largest telecommunications groups in the region in terms of value, revenue and profit," Axiata said.

The joint firm will have operations in nine countries with a total population of nearly 1 billion people, including Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia, beefing up against companies such as Singapore Telecommunications.

The merged company will operate around 60,000 cellphone towers across Asia, making it one of the largest mobile infrastructure firms in the region. Telenor said a separate stock market listing of the towers business would be possible down the track. - REUTERS

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