Malaysia's Axiata to raise up to $1 billion via Islamic bonds, will lend to units

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Axiata Group Bhd AXIA.KL, Malaysia's third-biggest telecom operator by number of subscribers, is looking to raise up to $1 billion through the sale of Islamic bonds, it said on Wednesday.

Half the funds will be used for refinancing, primarily for Axiata’s subsidiaries, group deputy chief executive Izzaddin Idris told reporters.

“There’s always that idea that if our subsidiary companies are going to raise their own funds in U.S. dollars, it will cost them much more. So if Axiata is able to borrow at much cheaper cost, then it makes sense for us to raise the funds and on-lend to the operating companies,” he said.

Axiata has appointed CIMB, Standard Chartered, UBS and Citi as joint lead arrangers for the bond, and hoped to complete the issuance next month.

In May the group secured $800 million in syndicated multi-currency Islamic financing facilities for its sustainability-linked initiatives.

Separately, Axiata said while there remains no rush to bring its telecoms towers unit Edotco Group to market given room in its balance sheet to borrow more funds, the valuation for the business has risen.

Izzadin said based on an investor’s interest last year to acquire a stake in Edotco, the business was valued at around 8-9 billion ringgit.

“In recent months, in recent weeks, we have parties indicating the valuation of much higher than that, easily 12 billion ringgit,” he said.

Axiata has put plans to list Edotco on the back burner since 2018, citing no immediate need for fundraising.

Last year, however, it said that plans to generate more profit and cash for the group would entail monetising Edotco.

Reporting by Liz Lee; editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jason Neely