Japan’s NTT DoCoMo has reduced its ownership stake in Bangladeshi cellco Robi Axiata from 30% to 8%, citing an ‘unfriendly’ regulatory environment and business uncertainties. The formal process of diluting the stake has already begun, while according to Robi’s announcement yesterday, DoCoMo has ‘decided not to invest further in the company in the run up to the 3G auction.’ Robi’s majority owner, Axiata of Malaysia, intends to increase its holding to 92% once legal and regulatory approvals are obtained, the statement continued.
Several unresolved issues are pending in the Bangladesh telecoms sector, involving communications regulators and other government agencies, particularly related to VAT rebates on 2G and 3G licences as well as 2G licensing rules. The cellco’s announcement said that recent National Board of Revenue (NBR) circulars did not satisfy operators’ concerns and were ‘well short of the commitments made by the government in addressing treatment of additional VAT on spectrum and its expectations; thereby bringing in uncertainty about its participation in the 3G auctions.’ The statement continued that ‘rather than invest further in Bangladesh due to these long-standing uncertainties and potentially poor return on investment, DoCoMo’s management has opted to dilute its holding in Robi.’
The statement also mentioned that while BDT17.577 billion (USD222 million) was brought in to the country as foreign direct investment from shareholders in 2012, no dividend had been proposed for the same business year, adding that ‘Robi has not paid any dividend to its shareholders since 2006, while investing BDT26.774 billion in the same period.’ DoCoMo became a shareholder in September 2008 after completing the purchase of A K Khan & Co’s entire 30% holding for approximately USD350 million, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database.