Axiata cans towers acquisition worth close to US$1 billion after failing to clear regulatory hurdles

Axiata’s edotco has walked away from its planned acquisition of Pakistan Mobile’s telecoms towers, having failed to secure regulatory approval for the deal.

It is over a year since Malaysia’s Axiata announced that it had partnered with Pakistani investment conglomerate Dawood Hercules to acquire Deodar, owner of 13,000 telecoms towers, from Pakistan Mobile Communications Ltd (PMCL), operator of the Jazz mobile service. Together the pair agreed to pay US$940 million for Deodar, with a view to holding the assets via a local unit of edotco.

The deal got the green light from Pakistan’s competition watchdog in November last year, but still required a number of regulatory approvals.

Edotco was unable to fulfil the conditions of the deal in a timely manner, "in particular regulatory approval for the resulting change of control," it said in a statement this week.

"We do not foresee this affecting our business goals and aspirations. We are confident in the potential of the growing market in Pakistan and are committed to the existing operations there," said edotco’s group CEO Suresh Sidhu.

Edotco’s Pakistan operations at present consist of a portfolio of around 700 towers it acquired through the $88.9 million purchase of Tanzanite Tower Private Ltd (TTPL) last year.

"We continue to develop our pipeline of opportunities into Pakistan as well as into other markets in South and South East Asia," said Sidhu.

"We have seen strong progress in Pakistan since our first acquisition here and business continues to grow with new orders for sites as well as high demand for adjacent opportunities such as energy solutions," added Arif Hussain, managing director for edotco Pakistan.

"We remain focused on building the business in Pakistan," he said.