Axiata to buy Pakistan telecom towers firm for $940m

Tower firms in Asia have been expanding by buying infrastructure from carriers. (Reuters)
Updated 30 August 2017
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Axiata to buy Pakistan telecom towers firm for $940m

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian telecommunications firm Axiata Group’s infrastructure unit is buying telecom towers in Pakistan for $940 million in partnership with a local conglomerate, in what will be one of the biggest deals in the South Asian nation.
Axiata subsidiary Edotco Group Sdn Bhd and its Pakistani partner Dawood Hercules Corp. will acquire Deodar, the tower unit of Pakistan Mobile Communications, which will add more than 13,000 towers to its portfolio.
The purchase will see Edotco emerge as the world’s eighth-largest independent tower firm and the second-largest multi-country tower operator, with a portfolio of about 40,000 towers across six countries.
Tower firms in Asia have been expanding by buying tower infrastructure from carriers, who, in many cases, are aiming to cut debt and focus on their core business.
“The acquisition of Deodar is a critical part of our growth strategy and ambition to position Edotco as the leading independent telecommunications infrastructure services provider in Asia,” Edotco CEO Suresh Sidhu said in a statement on Wednesday.
Sidhu told a media conference later that the acquisition, Edotco’s biggest, is part of its strategy to focus on assets in South and Southeast Asia, according to the recording of the conference reviewed by Reuters.
The deal, expected to be completed in the fourth quarter, would rank as one of Pakistan’s five biggest deals, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Edotco has previously said it aimed to become Pakistan’s largest independent tower firm. In June, it bought Pakistan’s Tanzanite Tower Pte for $90 million in a deal involving about 700 towers.
Axiata owns 62.4 percent of Edotco, which in recent months raised $700 million from Malaysia’s $28 billion Retirement Fund Incorporated (KWAP), sovereign wealth fund Khazanah and Innovation Network Corp. of Japan.
The acquisition of the Deodar towers unit will be funded using $600 million raised via debt and the remainder via equity and is expected to immediately add to Axiata’s earnings, according to the statement.


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
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Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.