Bangladesh’s government has decided to charge cellco Robi Axiata a total of BDT6.07 billion (USD75.7 million) in merger fees and additional spectrum charges as a condition of approval for the planned merger with rival Airtel Bangladesh under the Robi name. The Dhaka Tribune reports that the decision was taken at a meeting attended by Finance Minister AMA Muhith, State Minister for Posts &Telecommunication Tarana Halim, and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood. The total amount includes BDT5.07 billion in spectrum charges and BDT1.00 billion merger fees. The BTRC chair told the Tribune: ‘The figure is reasonable. Hope this will be satisfactory to the operators.’
Airtel’s 1800MHz frequencies were awarded in 2005 for 15 years at a cost equivalent to BDT15.1 million per year, compared to spectrum issued in the same band in 2011 to Robi and other operators which cost the equivalent of BDT100 million per year. The government indicated in April that if the merged Robi-Airtel intends to retain both portions of 1800MHz spectrum, it will have to pay fees to match the 2011 price.
Bharti Airtel of India and Malaysia’s Axiata signed a definitive agreement to merge their respective Bangladeshi mobile subsidiaries in January, to overtake Banglalink as the country’s second largest operator behind GrameenPhone, whilst reducing the number of market players to five. Under the agreement of undisclosed value, Axiata will take a 68.3% controlling stake in the combined entity, while Bharti will hold 25%, and the remaining 6.7% will be held by Robi’s existing minority shareholder NTT DOCOMO of Japan. The merger had originally been expected to be completed within the first half of the year, but with approval still pending, Bharti and Axiata have deferred the deadline for finalisation of the deal until 26 September.