Axiata acquires Nepalese mobile co for $1.36bn

One of Asia’s largest telecom companies has just become a little larger with the acquisition of Himalayan operator Ncell Private.  

Asian telecom investor, developer and operator Axiata Group Berhard has announced it will acquire an 80 percent controlling stake in Nepalese mobile phone operator Ncell Private Limited in a deal worth $1.365 billion. 

The transaction was facilitated via subsidiary Axiata Investments (UK) through a conditional sale and purchase agreement with TeliaSonera UTA Holdings and SEA Telecom Investments for the 100 percent acquisition of Reynolds Holdings Limited, which would gain Axiata an 80 percent controlling interest in Ncell. 

A Morrison & Foerster team led by Jake Robson advised on the transaction and the firm noted in a related statement that Nepal is one of Asia's fastest-growing economies, especially in the telecom sector.

JP Morgan Malaysia was appointed international finance advisor to Axiata and CIMB was appointed principal advisor.

“With a mobile customer penetration of 51 percent, the country has experienced a mobile subscriber growth at an average of 18 percent over the last two years,” the statement said. “Ncell is the number one operator in Nepal, with a stronghold of close to 58 percent revenue market share and 49 percent subscriber market share.”

President and group chief executive of Axiata, Dato' Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim said, “The scarcity of a controlling stake and very sizable, high-quality assets within our target region with a strong number one market leadership position makes Ncell a rare opportunistic asset to come by.”

The acquisition is subject to approval of Axiata shareholders and Bank Negara Malaysia, among others. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2016.