MEA News

A roundup of tower news across SSA and MENA

Angola: Angola Telecom searches for mobile partner

According to reports, Angola Telecom is poised to become the third operator in the Angolan market, joining Unitel and Movicel. The country’s fixed line incumbent is reportedly looking for a partner to launch mobile services, with Vodacom being linked with the country.

Cameroon: Afrimax closes Vodafone-branded group

Following the revocation of its license in September, Afrimax has closed down its Cameroon operations, which operated under the Vodafone brand. The operator stated that it was no longer commercially viable to run operations in the country where active MNOs include CamTel, MTN, Orange and Nexttel.

Ghana: Millicom and Airtel launch AirtelTigo brand

On Tuesday 14 November it was announced that Millicom and Airtel’s newly merged entity had been rebranded AirtelTigo. AirtelTigo becomes Ghana’s second largest operator, behind MTN. The company will serve around 10 million subscribers with revenues close to $300 million, it said in a statement.

Kenya: Market awaits news of Telkom Kenya tower sale

After having launched a process earlier this year to sell their portfolio of ~1,000 sites in the country, Telkom Kenya are in the process of evaluating bids with both Eaton Towers and American Tower thought to still be in the running. Eaton has a portfolio of 1200 sites in the country after having acquired Airtel’s portfolio. Dominant market player, Safaricom, have the country’s largest tower portfolio.

Kuwait: IHS Towers and Towershare reach an agreement to acquire Zain’s 1600 towers

On 10 October it was announced that Zain had entered into an agreement to sell and leaseback its 1,600 Kuwaiti towers to IHS Towers, in partnership with Towershare, for US$165mn. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018 and upon completion will mark the Middle East’s first tower transaction of scale. Zain has retained a non-controlling minority stake in the venture.

Nigeria: Barclays pulls out of 9mobile sale process

After having been appointed as financial advisor to run the sale of 9mobile, Barclays has reportedly stood down from its position after questioning from the Central Bank of Nigeria on the transparency of the bidding process. 16 expressions of interest had been received by the bank, with 10 parties reported to have been progressed through the the prequalified bidder phase. Barclays withdrawal would require the sale process to be restarted from scratch

Nigeria: MTN expects a local listing in H1 2018

In their Q3 earnings call, MTN stated that they expect to list their Nigerian opco on the local stock exchange in the first half of 2018, should market conditions be favourable. The listing is part of MTN’s settlement deal with the Nigerian government after it was fined NGN330 for a failure to disconnect unregistered SIMs.

Oman: Third Omani MNO license to go to a local consortium

After having received bids from Etisalat, Saudi Telecom Company and Zain, Oman’s Telecom Regulatory Authority has rejected such bids in favour of awarding the the Sultanate’s third mobile license to an as yet unnamed local consortium. The decision is understood to be part of a move to “enhance the role of local investment funds and enable them to contribute to the growth of the national economy.” The new operator will compete with Omantel and Ooredoo in the country. Looking for an international partner

Saudi Arabia: Regional funds plan to co-invest with IHS in Zain tower purchase

Having reached an agreement earlier in the month to sell their Kuwaiti sites to IHS and Towershare for $165mn, talks are reportedly close to reaching a conclusion between the parties regarding Zain’s 8,000 Saudi Arabian sites. Several regional funds have been linked as potential co-investors, with each readying proposals of US$100mn upwards for the tower purchase. The portfolio is expected to fetch a valuation of around $750mn with the MNO expected to sell 100% equity in the towers. Citi is running the process.

Saudi Arabia: Rural broadband project phase I completed ahead of schedule

The first phase of Saudi Arabia’s rural broadband project has been completed ahead of schedule. The project, part of Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Plan, is designed to bring >10Mb broadband coverage to sparsely populated areas with estimates suggesting that it would require the construction of 3500-4000 new macro-towers before 2020.

South Africa: Government identifies potential Telkom buyers

The South African government has identified potential buyers for its 39.3% sake in Telkom. The sale is part of a move to ensure the country does not exceed its fiscal expenditure as it looks to bail out SOEs South African Airways and the SA Post Office. Earlier this year, Telkom created a new infrastructure unit, Gyro Towers, through which they planned to better monetise their tower portfolio.

Tanzania: Vodacom Tanzania sells its stake in Helios Towers Tanzania

Vodacom Tanzania has sold its 24.06% equity stake in Helios Towers Tanzania to HTT’s parent company, Helios Towers Africa. The stake, valued at $85.5mn was acquired during Vodacom’s sale of its tower portfolio to Helios back in 2013. Vodacom had previously sold 100% equity in its 1,149 towers to Helios for $75mn, but as part of the terms of the transaction, acquired a 24.06% stake in the company’s Tanzanian opco. According to Vodacom Tanzania’s Managing Director, Ian Ferrao, the transaction will up capital to further enhance Vodacom’s Tanzania’s balance sheet and strategic operations. Vodacom’s relationship with Helios will be unaffected by the sale. The acquisition of the stake by Helios Towers Africa further simplifies the towercos ownership structure as they head towards a likely IPO in early 2018.

Regional: Millicom’s plans to exit Africa advance as Ghana merger completes and sale discussions with Econet Wireless progress

In Ghana, Millicom has completed the merger of its local business with Airtel, whilst the company has entered into advanced discussions with Econet Wireless regarding the sale of its remaining opcos in Tanzania, Rwanda and Chad, with the sale expected to raise close to $1bn. Millicom had previously sold its DRC operations to Orange and has reached an agreement to sell its Senegalese opco to a consortium involving NJJ, Sofiman and Teyliom Group. Millicom has had a challenging time in the African market and with the region’s revenue representing less than 10% of total group revenues, the exit from Africa will enable the operator to focus on its more successful Latin American markets.

Regional: African towerco IPO speculation steps up

It has been reported that Africa’s three largest privately held towercos, Eaton Towers, Helios Towers Africa and IHS Towers have appointed banks to run their respective IPO processes. Whilst the towercos have shied away from confirming such developments, a H1 2018 listing is widely expected, with Eaton Towers being tipped as the first expected to IPO, followed by Helios. Whilst IPOs look like the likely route, a strategic acquisition could represent an alternative exit for the towercos’ investors, with American Tower the most likely acquirer.

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