ABN to secure investors for 40% stake

Network: ABN, which was unveiled in mid-2013, has drawn down RM206mil from its bank facilities.

Network: ABN, which was unveiled in mid-2013, has drawn down RM206mil from its bank facilities.

PETALING JAYA: Asian Broadcasting Network (M) Sdn Bhd (ABN) expects to secure potential investors for a stake of up to 40% within the next two months.

According to sources familiar with the matter, a local bank together with an international firm have been mandated to undertake the deal where the investors would come in with fresh capital in exchange for an equity stake.

At the moment, ABN which is a cable television and Internet access provider is 70%-owned by Tan Sri K.K. Eswaran. It uses the hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) technology to provide its services and rides on the backbone of fibre-optic cables.

“ABN is agreeable to the divestment of a portion of the stake and is working closely with the bankers into its valuation. The potential investors are from Asia Pacific,” said a source.

The bankers had shortlisted partners with experience in rolling out services using the HFC digital network technology, said the source.

HFC combines optical fibre and coaxial cables which enables ABN to offer cable television services and high speed Internet access.

According to previous reports, ABN which was launched in mid-2013, has had cashflow problems since April this year.

The source, however, said ABN expected to “sort out everything” once the company had identified its investors.

“With the strategic partnership, they (the investors) will provide the financial support that we need. It is a high-capital expenditure business and has a long gestation period.

“But with a good technology partner which is prepared to fork out capital, ABN is confident of turning around the business,” the source said.

The source added that should everything go according to plan, ABN intended to be a listed entity by 2018 or 2019.

ABN obtained a five-year digital cable broadcast licence through Nilamas Corp Sdn Bhd, which the company was known then. The licence was activated in 2013, when ABNxcess, its digital cable TV service, went live on June 8, 2013.

It became the second pay-TV operator in the country after Astro . But ABN’s strategy was to go for the market that is not served by Astro and to keep its rates low. Apart from Astro, ABN also has to compete with Telekom Malaysia that provides Internet and content.

In May 2012, ABN was given a financing facility of RM450mil loan from Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd, a government bank held by Minister of Finance Inc and the Federal Lands Commissioner.

The loan was meant to help fund the company’s RM2bil capital expenditure. Under the terms of the loan, the amount to be drawn down is subject to capital being put up by the company itself.

“The proportion of draw-down will depend on the money being put in by ABN. It is not something that can be drawn down completely,’ said the source.

The source said ABN’s debt currently stood at RM300mil and of the amount RM206mil came from the facility provided by Bank Pembangunan.

According to reports, in its latest financial statement, which was for the financial year 2013, accumulated losses stood at RM36.2mil, including a loss of RM30.7mil for the year. Non-current and current assets stood at RM189.89mil and RM22.79mil respectively, compared with non-current and current liabilities of RM102mil and RM38.82mil.

With more than 50 channels, airing mostly programmes from India and China, ABN is the second largest fixed network service provider in the country after Telekom Malaysia.

ABN’s strength is that it charges less than RM100 for Internet and content per month, making it the cheapest provider.

But its draw-back is that both Telekom and Astro have the head start and have managed to secure a large number of customers.