Jolien Howard

PETALING JAYA: Xl Axiata Axis Group Bhd is planning to list its Bangladeshi mobile operator, Robi Axiata Ltd (Robi), in 2016.

Public Invest Research, in a report following a meeting with Axiata's investor relations team, said "Robi has commenced preparation for its initial public offering (IPO), and "expect its IPO to be likely in 2016."

Robi Axiata was supposed to be listed on Bangladesh's stock markets a few years back but deferred the idea due to unfavourable business circumstances.

In a recent letter sent to the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission, Robi Axiata said it had backtracked on the IPO because of uncertainty over acquiring spectrum this year, an unsettled issue of SIM replacement tax and insufficient incentive for listing.

Only one of the six mobile phone operators in Bangladesh is listed on the stock market.

Robi, majority-owned by Axiata Group, rolled out its 3G services in 2014. The company was supposed to be listed on Bangladesh's stock markets a few years back.

Public Invest noted that Robi Axiata will increase its capital expenditure for 2015 to improve coverage through its continued 3G network rollout.

Robi Axiata aims to be a strong No. 2 player in Bangladesh, expanding its share of market revenue from 25% in 2014 to 30% by 2016.

As for the listing of its telco tower unit, Edotco Bangladesh Co Ltd (e.co), the research arm said the current focus is to improve its operational efficiency and there is no concrete timeline for its IPO

It should be noted that e.co is part of Edotco Group, a subsidiary of Axiata Group, which is also Robi Axiata's majority shareholder.

Meanwhile, Public Invest has maintained a "neutral" call on Axiata with an unchanged target price of RM7.10.

It still picked Axiata as its preferred stock in the telco sector as it believed it will benefit from regional growth story as well as better 2015 performance from Celcom Bhd and PT XL Axiata.