Bangladesh’s third-largest mobile operator by subscribers, Malaysian-owned Robi Axiata, has said it may delay launching a mandatory initial public offering (IPO) until around July next year, the Daily Star reports. Robi cites uncertainty over acquiring spectrum via auction this year, an unsettled issue of ‘SIM replacement’ tax with the National Board of Revenue, as well as perceived insufficient incentive for listing among shareholders due to the existing corporate tax regime, according to a recent letter sent to the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission. CFO Yap Wai Yip wrote in the letter: ‘It appears that the conditions are not conducive to a public offering at this point in time,’ while referring to the 45% corporate tax, Robi added that mobile operators are shouldered with the joint highest rate of corporate tax (alongside tobacco firms) in Bangladesh. ‘In this respect, we have written to the finance ministry, decision of which would be paramount to our shareholder’s decision to offer shares to public,’ Robi added in the letter.
Arif Khan, a commissioner from the Bangladeshi stock market regulator, issued a reminder that listing is mandatory. As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the licensing guidelines of September 2011 issued by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) reiterated that all six cellular licensees must float shares in an IPO on the local stock market – although so far only market leader GrameenPhone has complied – while any operator listing a minimum of 20% shares through an IPO receives a 10% rebate on total tax in the year of transfer. The database adds that an IPO of a portion of Robi Axiata’s shares was originally scheduled for the end of 2008, but was delayed in light of the world financial crisis, and despite rescheduling an IPO for 2010, in the middle of that year the cellco’s management said it saw no immediate reason to float shares, and the idea was put on hold.