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Axiata signals interest in raising stake in Singapore’s M1

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by September 5, 2016 General

For now, Axiata Group Bhd’s CEO Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim said he’s satisfied with Axiata’s current holdings and isn’t planning any major mergers and acquisitions — File picFor now, Axiata Group Bhd’s CEO Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim said he’s satisfied with Axiata’s current holdings and isn’t planning any major mergers and acquisitions — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — Axiata Group Bhd Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim signalled Malaysia’s biggest mobile-phone operator would be interested in raising its stake in Singapore’s M1 Ltd as part of plans to turn the company into a bigger regional carrier.

“Strategically, it will be good for us to increase the stake,” Jamaludin, 57, said in an interview in his office in Kuala Lumpur last week, though he added that no negotiations were under way. “If the price is right, we will seriously consider it.”

Increasing its stake in M1 would build on Axiata’s presence in South and South-east Asia, where it already controls operators in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Cambodia. Still, Singapore is facing the prospects of mounting competition as the government is seeking to award the city-state’s fourth licence to run a mobile-phone carrier.

M1 shares rose as much as 1.2 per cent to S$2.54 (RM7.61) in Singapore trading today, while Axiata climbed as much as 0.7 per cent in Kuala Lumpur.

To read about Singapore’s plans for a fourth carrier, click here

Axiata is M1’s biggest shareholder with a 28.5 per cent stake, followed by the 19.2 per cent held by  Temasek Holdings Pte’s Keppel Corp., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. People familiar with the matter said earlier this year that Temasek was weighing the possibility of Keppel selling its stake in M1.

For now, Jamaludin said he’s satisfied with Axiata’s current holdings and isn’t planning any major mergers and acquisitions.

“We are generally happy with what we have” he said. “Realistically, even if I want to go into another country, the opportunity is not there or it doesn’t make sense.”

He singled out India as an example. Axiata has no plan to raise or cut the company’s 20 per cent stake in Idea Cellular Ltd, the nation’s third largest wireless carrier, as expansion in the country would require “huge” investments, Jamaludin said. That’s why they need partners like the Birla family, which controls Idea, he said. — Bloomberg

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