TeliaSonera dials A for Axiata

  • Swedish company that made foray into Nepal in ’08 agrees to sell majority stake in Ncell to Malaysian firm
- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu
Ncell will continue exercising its best efforts in serving its customers and providing high quality communication solutions in Nepal- Erim Taylanlar, Ncell CEO

Dec 22, 2015-In the biggest acquisition deal in Nepali history, Axiata, a Malaysian telecoms company, has agreed to buy majority stake in Ncell, Nepal’s leading telecoms operator from Swedish company TeliaSonera. 

The deal valued at Rs 140 billion ($1.4 billion) will give Axiata 80 percent stake in Ncell. As per the agreement initialled between the two companies, TeliaSonera is selling its 60.4 percent stake in Ncell to Axiata at around $1.030 billion. 

The Malaysian company will also buy stake of Visor Group of Kazakhstan which has 19.6 percent in Ncell. The deal means exit of TeliaSonera from Nepal where it had entered in 2008 after buying majority stake in then Spice Nepal from Visor Group. 

The Swedish company in September had announced that it would be leaving Eurasian markets including Nepal to focus on Europe and its home Nordic region. 

“In September, we announced our ambition to reduce our presence in our seven Eurasian markets and focus on our operations in the Nordics and Baltics, within the strategy of creating the new TeliaSonera. Today, I am very pleased to announce a first step and proof point in the reshaping of TeliaSonera,” TeliaSonera’s President and Chief Executive Officer Johan Dennelind said in a statement on Monday.

As part of the divestment of Ncell to Axiata, TeliaSonera will also dissolve its economic interest in the rest 20 percent stake that belongs to local investor—Niraj Govinda Shrestha—and will receive around 

$48 million from Sunivera Capital Ventures Pte Ltd, a Singapore registered 

company. 

“Shrestha will sell his locally held shares to Bhavana Singh Shrestha, who is Axiata’s chosen local partner,” reads the TeliaSonera statement. 

The Singapore-based company is buying local stakes of Ncell following consent from Axiata.

Salomon Bekele, senior advisor, CEO Office of TeliaSonera, said that the mega deal is likely to close within six months. 

“We expect to close the overall process by mid-2016,” Bekele said during an interaction with the media. 

With the two companies initialing the deal, TeliaSonera now will notify the developments to the telecoms regulator Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) and the Department of Industry (DoI). “We will need two approvals from Malaysian government authorities too,” Bekele said. 

The deal is subject to the approval of Malaysian Central Bank and Axiata’s shareholders, apart from authorities in Nepal. 

For Axiata, the deal marks its further consolidation in the Asian market. 

“Post-acquisition, Axiata will have contiguous presence and reach in five key countries across South Asia,” reads a statement by the company, which has controlling interests in mobile operators in Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Cambodia with significant stakes in India and Singapore. The group, including its subsidiaries and associates, has over 260 million mobile subscribers in Asia.

TeliaSonera entered Nepal in 2008, acquiring a controlling stake in then Spice Nepal Private Limited. Established in 2004, Spice Nepal was Nepal’s first private mobile operator and launched its services under “Mero Mobile” brand in 2005. Following the acquisition, “Mero Mobile” was re-branded as Ncell in March 2010. 

Ncell CEO Erim Taylanlar, in a letter dispatched to Ncell corporate customers on Monday, said the deal with the Malaysian company will not affect Ncell’s operations. “Ncell will continue exercising its best efforts in serving its customers and providing high quality communication solutions in Nepal. We remain committed to our responsibilities towards our customers, employees and the county and society in general,” the letter reads. 

 

company outlook

Pre-deal

Company    Stakes

TeliaSonera    60.4 %

Niraj Govinda Shrestha, 

local partner    20 %

Visor Group    19.6 %

Post-deal

Company    Stakes

Axiata    80 %

Sunivera Capital Ventures    20 %

(Bhavana Singh Shrestha, local partner)

Long and short of it

-    2004: Spice Nepal Private Limited makes a foray into Nepal as the first private mobile operator

-    2005: Spice Nepal launches services under “Mero Mobile” brand 

-    2008: TeliaSonera enters Nepal, acquiring a controlling stake in then Spice Nepal 

-    2010: TeliaSonera rebrands “Mero Mobile” as Ncell to become a leading telecoms operator in Nepal

-    2015: TeliaSonera agrees to sell 60.4 percent stake that it held directly in Ncell to Malaysian telecoms firm Axiata

Published: 22-12-2015 08:19

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