AKTEL identified as Vodafone target

31 Jan 2008

Vodafone Group is looking to buy a 30% stake in AKTEL, the 70%-owned Bangladeshi GSM unit of Telekom Malaysia International (TMI), which is currently number three in the local market in terms of subscribers. Local newspaper the Daily Star reports that domestic shareholder A K Khan & Company is offering the stake, which is estimated to be worth more than USD300 million. Speaking at a meeting with the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Gavin Darby, chief executive officer of Vodafone’s operations in the region, said: ‘I met [Salahuddin Kasem Khan] the chairman of A K Khan & Company [on Tuesday]. Mr Khan is considering selling his AKTEL shares. So in the short time, that is the opportunity that we are looking at in Bangladesh’s mobile market.’

Yusof Annuar Yaacob, chief executive officer of TMI, has previously said his company was keen to partner Vodafone in Bangladesh, and valued AKTEL at over USD1 billion. The BTRC said at yesterday’s meeting that it would welcome Vodafone’s partnership with Telekom Malaysia, whilst Salahuddin Kasem Khan was quoted as saying ‘if Vodafone comes into Bangladesh, it will be good for the country.’ Gavin Darby indicated yesterday that a share purchase is Vodafone’s preferred method of entry to the Bangladesh market, which is already crowded, with five GSM network operators and one CDMA-based cellular provider. A K Khan is the only mobile shareholder to have expressed any desire to sell its shares, meaning that AKTEL may be the UK group’s only possible acquisition target. AKTEL lost its position as the country’s second largest cellco to Orascom subsidiary Banglalink in the last quarter of 2007, as its subscriber base fell by 600,000 to 6.4 million at the end of the year.

Bangladesh, Vodafone Group, Robi Axiata,

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