By Yantoultra Ngui
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Shares of Axiata Group Bhd. (6888.KU) and DiGi.com Bhd. (6947.KU) fell sharply Tuesday morning in the first day of trading following news that Axiata and Norway's Telenor ASA (TEL.OS) plan to merge some of their assets had failed.
Shares of Axiata--Malaysia's largest telecom by market capitalization--dropped as much as 18% to MYR4.01 in early trading, hitting their lowest in over four months as shares of Telenor's Malaysian unit, DiGi.com, shed 12% to MYR4.30, putting both among the top losers on the local bourse.
In May, the companies said they were discussing a possible noncash merger of their Asian telecom and infrastructure assets that would have created one of Asia's largest telecom companies with potential annual revenue of $12 billion.
Hong Leong Investment Bank Research described the aborted tie-up as "a negative surprise" that would pressure both Axiata and Digi.com shares, while AmBank Research downgraded the Malaysian telecommunications sector to neutral from overweight, citing the missed opportunity to alleviate the pricing competition that has eroded the sector's margins in recent years.
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