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Robi, Airtel initiate discussion for joining

48Axiata of Malaysia, parent company of cellular phone operator Robi, and India’s Bharati Airtel have started “exclusive discussions” to merge their operations in Bangladesh eying to be the country’s second-largest operator after GrameenPhone.

“Axiata Group Berhad and Bharti Airtel wish to announce they have entered into an exclusive discussion to explore the possibility of combining the business operations of their telecommunication subsidiaries in Bangladesh; namely, Robi and Airtel,” a joint statement of the two companies said, BSS reports.

With the 28 million subscribers’ base, Robi is currently the third largest operator in Bangladesh while Airtel Bangladesh secures the fourth position with 9 million users.

The combined entity will make it the second-largest telecom service provider in Bangladesh in terms of subscribers with GrameenPhone having over 50 million clients.

The statement, however, said there was no certainty that their discussion would lead into the execution of “binding definitive agreements between the Parties”.

The statement said the two companies would issue further announcements in the event there is any material development on this matter.

Bharti Airtel entered Bangladesh by acquiring 70 percent stake in Warid Telecom in 2010, while in 2013, it picked up the remaining 30 percent as well.

On the other hand, Robi is a joint venture of Malaysia’s Axiata Group Berhad and NTT DOCOMO INC of Japan.

It was formerly known as Telekom Malaysia International (Bangladesh) which commenced operations in this South Asian country in 1997 with its brand name being AKTEL.

On 28 March 2010, the service name was rebranded as ‘Robi’.