Bharti Airtel, an Indian global telecommunications services company, has come a step forward to strengthen its position in Bangladesh by buying 6.31 percent stakes held by Japanese NTT DoCoMo in Robi Axiata.
After acquiring DoCoMo's shares, the Delhi-based Bharti Airtel's holdings will rise to 31.31 percent in Robi, the second largest telecom operator in the country.
The remaining 68.69 percent stakes are held by Malaysia's Axiata Group.
Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has approved the share transfer application and sent it to the telecom ministry for its approval.
"As they have no dues, the commission has approved their application for the planned share transfer," Md Jahurul Haque, chairman of the BTRC, told The Business Standard.
However, neither BTRC nor Robi disclosed the price at which 6.31 percent of Robi Axiata shares will be transferred.
"We are instructed to act on the planned share transfer, we do not know what are the considerations in the transaction between the two groups," said Shahed Alam, head of corporate affairs at Robi Axiata.
On March 1, 2020, Robi Axiata Ltd filed an application with the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) for the initial public offering of around Tk524 crore at the face value.
In the application, the company has sought a special exemption for its existing shareholders from post-IPO lock in restrictions – an opportunity for off-market share selling or transfer.
Observer believes that the company was instructed to clear the way for such share transfers by any of its existing shareholders.
Without the special exemption, DoCoMo would have to wait for three years after debut in stock exchange trading of Robi shares.
NTT DoCoMo entered the Bangladesh market through acquiring 30 percent stake of the then Aktel, owned by local AK Khan Group and Malaysia's Axiata, in 2008.
In 2010, Aktel was rebranded as Robi and the company changed its name to Robi Axiata Ltd.
After the merger of Robi and Airtel in 2016, the company emerged as the country's second largest telecom operator and retains the same position now.
Robi Axiata Ltd, a company with a paid-up capital of Tk4,700 crore, got only Tk0.04 in earnings per share for 2019, which was Tk0.46 in 2018. It suffered losses in the previous two years.
It had a turnover of Tk7,400 crore in 2019. At the end of last December, the net asset value against each Robi share was Tk12.64.
The company paid 4 percent in dividends for 2014, and that was the last time.