Robi-Airtel merger pushed back by two weeks | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 28, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 28, 2016

Robi-Airtel merger pushed back by two weeks

Regulator directs merged company not to use Airtel brand

The merger between Robi and Airtel was deferred by two weeks due to the regulator's delay in its final approval.

Robi had planned to launch the merged entity on November 1. But they will miss the date and now they are planning to shift it to the third week of next month, said a top official of the operator.

Robi and Airtel were expected to wrap up the merger process by October 23, according to a court order, but they missed it due to the regulator's two-week delay.

In its final approval on Wednesday, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission placed around 20 conditions, one of which is that the merged entity will have to run under the Robi brand, said a senior official of BTRC.

“As we have allowed them to use the 016 number series for two more years, we are concerned that they may continue the Airtel brand for that time. That's why we asked them not to use the Airtel brand after the merger,” the official said.

The merged entity will also have to change Airtel's subscriber number prefix of 016 to Robi's 018 in two years.

In the merged entity, Axiata, the parent company of Robi, will hold a 68.7 percent controlling stake. Bharti Airtel will hold a 25 percent share in the company and Axiata's old partner NTT Docomo of Japan 6.3 percent.

Currently, Malaysia-based Axiata has a 91.59 percent stake in Robi and NTT Docomo 8.41 percent.

The two companies have started the integration of their networks and will also need to amalgamate their spectrums, which is a complicated process in itself.

BTRC gave Robi 30 days to pay the merger fees and charges for Airtel's 2G spectrum merging. Robi has to pay Tk 33.8 crore for each megahertz of Airtel's 2G spectrum that the merged entity will use over the next four years, along with the merger fee of Tk 100 crore.

The telecom regulator also directed Robi to offer a voluntary retirement scheme for employees. Senior managers will get basic salaries for three months and midlevel and junior employees will qualify for basic salaries for four months -- for every year of their service in Airtel with all other benefits, if any of them does not join the merged entity.

The merged company will be the second largest operator after Grameenphone. It opened talks on the merger at the end of August last year and both their parent companies signed a deal in January.

Airtel entered Bangladesh in 2010 by acquiring a 70 percent stake in Warid Telecom.

Later in 2013, it picked up the remaining 30 percent. Robi started operations in 1997 under the brand name of Aktel; in 2008 it was rebranded as Robi. The operator renewed its licence in 2011 after completing its first 15-year tenure.

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