Africa and Middle East News

A roundup of tower news across SSA and MENA

Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso: Orange acquires 100% of Airtel shares in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso

Orange is set to acquire 100% of Airtel Sierra Leone and Airtel Burkina Faso’s share capital in a bid to strengthen the operator’s presence in Africa. The deals will add close to 5.5mn customers to Orange’s customer base and extend the company’s African footprint to cover 20 countries. This is further to the initial agreement signed between Airtel and Orange in July 2015 regarding the potential acquisition of Airtel’s operations in Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Chad and Congo Brazzaville to fund its operations in Nigeria. The completion of the transactions in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso (implemented in partnership with Orange’s subsidiaries in the Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal) are still subject to approval by the relevant authorities whilst the agreements in Chad and Congo Brazzaville have lapsed

Tunisia: Tunisia Telecom and Orange launch RAN sharing agreement

Tunisia Telecom and Orange have launched a RAN sharing programme in Tunisia to reduce rollout and maintenance costs. 78 villages in Zaghouan followed by the governate of Jedouba will be covered by the project which is estimated to cost in the region of US$100-150,000, less than half the amount had the two MNOs followed independent strategies.

Nigeria: MTN Nigeria disputes US$3.9bn fine

MTN Group has announced that It will be challenging the fine it received from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) last year for failing to disconnect 5.1mn unregistered subscribers before the deadline given. The initial fine of NGN1.04tn (US$5.2bn) issued in October was reduced by 25% by the NCC in December. MTN have instructed lawyers to commence with proceedings however the group has stated that it will continue to work with Nigerian authorities to try and find a more amicable solution.

Zambia: Zambia to spend US$272mn to build 469 mobile towers

The Zambian government have announced plans to build 469 towers which will be owned and operated by state owned telecommunications company, Zamtel. The towers will be built in all ten provinces in a move to increase access to mobile communications in both urban and rural areas. As Zambia’s third largest operator (behind MTN and Airtel), the move is expected to help Zamtel grow its market share, competing with its rivals that have already expanded their networks.

Cote d’Ivoire: ARTCI opens expressions of interest for a new telecoms concession

Amidst hikes in license fees for existing MNOs Orange, MTN and Telecel, the Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications de Cote d’Ivoire (ARTCI) opened Expressions of Interest for a new telecoms concession in a bid to “revitalise” the market. The government aims to reduce the number of licenses to four global concession holders, opening up the potential for one new operator in the market.

Tanzania; DRC: Airtel renegotiating cancelled tower sales in Tanzania and the DRC

TowerXchange understand that Airtel has resumed and substantially progressed tower sales for at least two of the four countries where transactions were cancelled. Helios Towers Africa remain firm favourites to re-confirm the acquisition of Airtel’s Tanzanian towers, while multiple parties are believed to be interested in Airtel’s towers in DRC, believed to be the country’s most pervasive network. The status of tower transactions in Chad, where Airtel may had been in negotiations to sell their opco to Orange, and Malawi, where the deal was recently cancelled with Eaton, remain less clear.

Tanzania: Millicom to acquire 85% stake in Zantel

Millicom International Cellular has confirmed that it will acquire an 85% stake in Zanzibar Telecom (Zantel) from Etisalat Group, with the remaining 15% continuing to be state-owned. The move will strengthen Millicom’s position in its biggest African market whilst paying only a nominal cash amount of US$1 for the stake, Millicom will assume Zantel’s US$74mn of debt obligations. The transaction is still subject to regulatory approval by both the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and the Fair Competition Commission.

Ghana, DRC, Tanzania: Millicom reshuffles shares for a 24% stake in Helios Towers Africa

Millicom will exchange their shares in Helios Towers Africa’s tower companies in Ghana, DRC and Tanzania for a 24% stake in HTA’s parent company. The rationale behind the reshuffle is to simplify the HTA’s share ownership structure. HTA acquired a portfolio of 2,450 Millicom towers in the three countries through a sale and leaseback deal in 2010.

Ethiopia: Ethio Telecom to launch expansion tender in early 2016

Ethio Telecom, Ethiopia’s state owned MNO is set to launch a tender in early 2016 to expand and upgrade its network coverage by 72%. Whilst the project details and costs are still being finalised, it is thought that the works will focus on upgrading software technology, including the potential addition of 5G technology. It is not thought that further towers will be constructed as part of the expansion plan, with Ethio Telecom believing it already possesses an adequate portfolio of towers for the plans.

Nigeria: HTN Towers postpones IPO

Nigerian towerco HTN towers announced that it had shelved plans to list the company on the London Stock Exchange following the receipt of expressions of interest from potential buyers. In a statement to the press, Pierre Danon, HTN Towers Chairman stated “The shareholders of the Company have received expressions of interest from potential buyers to acquire the Company.  Consequently, the board of the directors of the Company has decided not to proceed with the IPO at this time. Notwithstanding, we were very pleased with the high level of investor engagement in the IPO process.”

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