Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has decided to give its approval to Robi-Airtel merger without realising Tk 109 crore in unpaid VAT.
“We have taken a decision to issue merger licence to Robi Axiata Limited as the merged company. They will issue a bank performance guarantee to get the licence,” BTRC chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood told daily sun on Saturday.
He also admitted the merged company is yet to pay Tk 109 crore in VAT as per the conditions of the merger.
“We didn’t get the merger licence from the BTRC yet,” a Robi spokesperson told daily sun.
In February 2017, the government decided to suspend the merger between Airtel Bangladesh Limited and Robi Axiata Limited until payment or adjustment of Tk 109 crore in outstanding VAT.
BTRC in March issued a show-cause notice to Robi regarding the payment of dues.The operator later agreed to issue bank performance guarantee to get the licence.
“Robi agreed to pay all unpaid VAT subject to the high court directive or decision of other cell phone operators,” a BTRC official said, adding that BTRC is unable to insist only Robi as other mobile operators are also in dispute with the telecom regular on the VAT issue.
The mobile operator has paid merger fee of Tk 100 crore and spectrum charge of around Tk 348 crore to get the licence as a merged company.
Currently, there are 79.23 lakh active connections under the network of Airtel, for which the 016 prefix and the Airtel branding will be retained for at least two years.
Robi has 2.59 crore active customers as of December 2016. The merged company will be known as Robi Axiata Limited and it will become the second largest operator in the country, both in terms of subscribers and revenues. The combined entity will serve approximately 3.38 crore subscribers.
Both the parent companies of Robi and Airtel opened talks on a possible merger at the end of August 2015, and a deal was signed on January 28, 2016. In the merged entity, Axiata, the parent company of Robi, will hold a 68.7 percent controlling stake in the new entity.
Bharti Airtel will hold 25 percent share in the company and Axiata's old partner NTT DOCOMO of Japan will have 6.3 percent. Currently, Malaysia-based Axiata has 91.59 percent stake in Robi while NTT Docomo owns 8.41 percent.
Airtel entered Bangladesh in 2010 by acquiring a 70 percent stake in Warid Telecom. Later in 2013, it picked up the remaining 30 percent shares. Its licence expires in 2018.
Robi started operations in 1997 under the brand name of Aktel. The operator renewed its licence in 2011 after completing its first 15-year tenure.