Malaysia's major telcos mull equity stakes in state 5G agency

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A salesperson at a telecommunications store uses a phone in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Hasnoor Hussain NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES/File Photo

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 (Reuters) - Malaysia's four major telecommunications firms will explore the government's offer of an equity stake in the state 5G agency, Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), they said in a joint statement on Thursday.

Axiata Group's Celcom (AXIA.KL), DiGi (DSOM.KL), Maxis (MXSC.KL) and U-Mobile had originally raised concerns over pricing and transparency of DNB's 5G rollout. The government responded last week by offering them a stake of up to 70% in DNB, with the expectation that an equity stake could potentially give telcos more say in the process. read more

The firms said they had asked the government for details of the offer and looked forward "to an approach that is typical of any major mergers and acquisitions process".

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DNB, the sole entity tasked with upgrading the country's telecoms network, has said the cost of accessing its 5G network would be lower than what telecom companies incurred for 4G.

Two sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters on Thursday that the four telcos have told the government they will wait to finalise the shareholding structure before signing an agreement.

They have also asked for DNB to refrain from undertaking any major deals or hires during the negotiations process, said the sources, who declined to be identified as they were not authorised to comment on private discussions.

DNB and Malaysia's finance and communication ministries did not immediately comment on the mobile operators' request.

The agency had earlier said it would extend its pilot programme offering free 5G services to carriers by three months to June 30, to facilitate a seamless transition for operators that had yet to sign up to its network.

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Reporting by Liz Lee and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor

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