Malaysia's Axiata Group shelves plans for sale of stake in tower unit

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Malaysian telecoms firm Axiata Group said on Thursday it has shelved plans to sell a stake in its telecommunications tower business due to uncertain market conditions.

According to Bloomberg news, talks between Axiata and potential investors about the sale of a stake for more than $500 million have stalled after a military coup in Myanmar.

The telecommunications tower business, called edotco Group, owns 33,600 towers across Southeast and South Asia, of which 3,150 towers are in Myanmar.

“Given the situation with the pandemic and so on, we’ve decided to not pursue that approach. Of course that remains open, we will continue to evaluate the opportunities out there,” Group Chief Executive Officer Izzaddin Idris said in an online earnings briefing.

He did not address whether the Myanmar coup was a factor in the shelving of the sale.

Axiata has not disclosed the size of the stake it might sell. A fund backed by the Japanese government, the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), has also been looking to sell its 21.1% stake in the business and will continue its efforts, Izzaddin said.

The edotco business was valued at around 8 billion ringgit to 9 billion ringgit ($2 billion to $2.2 billion), Izzaddin said last year.

Axiata reported a net loss of 256 million ringgit for the October-December quarter, compared with a profit of 332.6 million ringgit a year ago, hurt by depreciation costs and write-offs of assets.

It also said it has selected a partner to jointly bid for a digital banking licence in Malaysia and aims to make an announcement in few weeks.

Axiata is among companies including ride-hailing firm Grab, gaming firm Razer, AirAsia and lender CIMB Group which are interested in applying for a digital banking licence.

Its shares rose as much as 5.9% after the company briefing. ($1 = 4.0370 ringgit) (Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)