Frankly Speaking: Proposed mega merger unravels

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on September 9, 2019 - September 15, 2019.
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In a surprising turn of events, Axiata Group Bhd and Telenor ASA said Friday they had mutually agreed to end merger discussions after four months of talks due to “some complexities” they “do not intend to provide further comments” on.

A week earlier,  Axiata’s president and CEO had told reporters negotiations were on track to conclude by November, with due diligence 70% done and commercial talks 90% completed.

Then, on Sept 5, officials at Axiata’s Indonesian unit reportedly affirmed that merger talks were ongoing and dismissed speculation that Telenor’s origin was a problem.

So what changed in just one week? What is certain is that the deal did not fall through for the lack of commercial merit. Both parties acknowledged the “strong strategic rationale” of the merger and “do not rule out that a future transaction could be possible”.

By reiterating the merits without providing specifics of what went wrong, the companies all but pointed to non-commercial reasons for throwing a spanner in the works.

Their reluctance to provide further details of what went wrong could undermine the credibility of future statements from them. Surely investors are owed more than that?

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