(Bloomberg) -- Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo Inc. has joined a consortium led by Mitsui & Co. in the bidding for a majority stake in the tower unit of Malaysia’s biggest wireless firm Axiata Group Bhd., according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The group, which also includes Jtower Inc., is offering to buy new shares in Edotco Group Sdn. for about $750 million, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. The Mitsui-led consortium is also interested in buying existing shares owned by Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. and pension fund Kumpulan Wang Persaraan Diperbadankan, the people said.
A potential purchase by the Japanese consortium could be worth about $1.5 billion, including both new and existing shares, according to the people. That would give the group a controlling stake in Edotco of more than 50%, while Axiata would remain as the single biggest shareholder, the people said. Axiata currently owns about 62.4% in the tower unit.
Apart from the Mitsui-led group, Malaysia’s state-owned Employees Provident Fund has been in talks to acquire Edotco’s new shares, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month. EPF isn’t interested in purchasing existing shares, the people have said.
Deliberations are ongoing and the companies could still decide against pursuing a deal, the people said. Representatives for Axiata, Edotco, Mitsui and NTT Docomo declined to comment, while a representative for JTower didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Founded in 2012, Edotco operates and manages a portfolio of more than 54,000 towers across nine Asian nations including Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and Myanmar, according to its website. The company’s services range from tower leasing and co-location to operations and maintenance. It has expanded both organically and via mergers and acquisitions, including the purchase of around 3,000 towers in the Philippines from PLDT Inc. last year.
NTT Docomo is one of Japan’s biggest mobile operators with over 88 million subscribers, according to a press statement last month. Should the Mitsui-group manage to acquire Edotco shares, it would be NTT Docomo’s first deal in Southeast Asia since 2013 when the Japanese firm was part of a consortium that invested in Singapore’s Cinemacraft Technologies Pte, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
--With assistance from Min Jeong Lee, Grace Huang and Takahiko Hyuga.
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