Indian Telecom major Bharti Airtel and Malaysia-based Axiata Group have begun talks to merge their operations in Bangladesh to create the second-largest operator in that country.
In a joint statement, both the companies said that they have "entered into an exclusive discussion to explore the possibility of combining the business operations of their telecommunication subsidiaries in Bangladesh, namely, Robi Axiata Limited and Airtel Bangladesh Limited."
Airtel Bangladesh has a customer base over 9 million and Robi Axiata Limited has approximately 28 million users. The combined entity will make it the second-largest telecom service provider in that country in terms of subscribers.
There is no certainty that this discussion will lead to the execution of binding definitive agreements between the parties, the statement added.
"This announcement is to facilitate the on-going discussions and exchanges of information between the parties, including but not limited to discussions with the relevant regulatory authorities," the statement said.
Axiata and Bharti will issue further announcement in the event there is any material development on this matter.
When contacted, an Airtel spokesperson said, "We remain committed to Bangladesh. The proposed merger, where we will be strategic minority partner, will combine the strengths of both companies to create the second-largest mobile operator in Bangladesh with over 37 million customers."
Airtel entered Bangladesh by acquiring 70 per cent stake in Warid Telecom in 2010, while in 2013, it picked up the remaining 30 per cent too.