Axiata: No job losses over merger

By BERNAMA / Pic By TMR File

Axiata Group Bhd president and group CEO Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim (picture) has reiterated that there would be no job cuts if the proposed merger with Norwegian mobile operator Telenor ASA were to materialise.

He said the planned merger, which is expected to be completed by the third quarter of next year, would not result in any retrenchment as Axiata does not believe it should benefit from the merger at the expense of the employees.

“There will be no retrenchment (as a result of the proposed merger), that is a guarantee,” he told Bernama recently, allaying concerns after the news on the proposed merger broke earlier this month.

“We will not do things that harm our employees, as our philosophy has always included protect ing our employees’ welfare. We are very strong at that.

“In fact, Celcom Axiata Bhd has always had a high number of employees, but we had never conducted any retrenchment, apart from offering the voluntary separation scheme (VSS),” said Jamaludin, who leads the telecommunications conglomerate since 2008.

Celcom has conducted three VSS exercises since 2015 and slightly over 350 employees opted for them.

“Most people do not quite understand the telcommunications industry. Although we are doing well, it is not the same for the global telcommunications industry.

“In Europe, for example, in 2017, more than 100,000 jobs were lost, and growth was at only at 1%. Profit was -3%. If we do not do anything here, we might face the same problem,” said Jamaludin.

“It makes sense to pursue this merger now because whatever we do will be from a position of strength. We will have the ‘luxury’ to manage any reduction of workforce, if required, through voluntary means,” he added.

Jamaludin stressed that Axiata could not afford to stay stagnant in the domestic market on the back of convergence of products, as well as the emergence of cross-platform messaging and voice over Internet Protocol service such as WhatsApp.

“There are so many choices in the telecommunications industry. You cannot monopolise. Take voice call for an example, how many of us are using local telecommunications companies such as Celcom and Digi.Com Bhd for international calls? We use Skype and WhatsApp and these products have bypassed all of us,” he noted.

To recap, on May 6, both Axiata and Telenor announced that they were in discussions to establish a new merged global entity, MergedCo, by combining Axiata and Telenor’s Asian operations within their Asean and South Asia footprint markets.

The proposed transaction was aimed at enabling the MergedCo to bring together Axiata and Telenor’s Asian operations’ unique combination of scale, competencies and vast experiences in leading and managing emerging and frontier markets.

On the Malaysian front, the plan is to merge Celcom and Digi into MalaysiaCo.

Jamaludin refuted the notion that the merger would lead to a loss of Axiata’s identity and is akin to selling local assets to a foreign entity.

“This is a merger, not acquisition. The MergedCo will not be subservient to either Telenor Group or Axiata Group,” he pointed out, adding that despite Telenor having a majority stake, the spirit of a merger of equals is fundamental to this exercise.

The board of directors’ mix will represent the shareholdings, but Jamaludin asserted that the board of the MergedCo, as well as Malaysia Co, will remain independent and professionally managed with the mandate to make all decisions in Malaysia and for the countries it operates in. — Bernama