TowerXchange conducted a light-hearted survey via our LinkedIn group to ask “If you had US$200mn to invest in emerging market towers, in which country would you prefer to acquire assets?”
What would be your vote?
Selected comments on the survey from TowerXchange LinkedIn group members:
“Myanmar provides a very unique opportunity to the world for green field roll out and hence the learning from all other emerging markets can be put to use to optimise design, cost and opex with green energy solutions for the roll out of the network. Excellent opportunity for MNOs, towercos and OEMs to combine their energy and resources to put all best practices to use.” – Sandeep Kaul, then CTO, IHS Nigeria
“The constitutional reform in telecommunications in Mexico 2013 states the building of a wholesale network in the 700 MHz band, this makes (Mexico) a great option.” – Ramiro Robledo, Director, Regulatory Projects, Federal Telecommunications Institute, Mexico
“The appetite for towers in Nigeria is insatiable yet, but for the setbacks of power, the market is second to none.” – Ehize Ilozavbie, Chief Legal Officer at SWAP TECHNOLOGIES AND TELECOMMS
“Myanmar is set to grow the nationwide tower base from 1,800 to circa 15,000 sites over the next five years, with mobile penetration going from 6% to 80% in the same period. Despite the frontier market risk and the greenfield nature of the roll-out, any well managed tower portfolio in Myanmar is bound to generate above-average returns in the medium to long term.” – Paul Hemming, Director, Redwing Asia
“Most Investments are made to get high returns; you can not beat Nigeria in terms of ROI! All procedures may not always be proper, but then the tower industry is not killed (as yet) by greedy town councils and municipalities!” – Surendra Kulkarni, CTO, Glomobile Ghana
“I am in Myanmar and we have all been transported back to 1996, the first time a towerco has the opportunity to build a new network to accommodate four operators from the very start. Great country many challenges such nice people.” – Brian Edwards, Operations Director, Apollo Towers Myanmar
“Why would I invest in the DRC? DRC is a challenging but proven market. Helios Towers DRC has achieved impressive tenancy ratios on the towers acquired from Millicom Tigo in 2010. However, DRC’s most extensive tower network is Airtel’s, currently available as part of Airtel’s African tower sale.
The DRC has a long runway for growth: with a population of 75.5mn, DRC has mobile penetration of just 17.5%, but growing fast. The overlay of 3G commenced in 2012 and is stimulating demand for infill sites. Four of Africa’s top six operators are present in DRC (Airtel, Orange, Tigo and Vodacom) and Ziad Dalloul’s Africell leveraged tenancies on Helios towers to come to market quickly and competitively.
For me the downsides of investing in DRC towers translate to barriers to entry for competitors. There is some country risk in a country with ongoing conflict, particularly in East, but the perceived risk may be greater than the actual.
Running a towerco in a country with such under-developed power and transport infrastructure is a tremendous challenge. Most cell sites outside Kinshasa and Lubumbashi are off-grid, and the delivered cost of a dollar’s worth of diesel can be US$1.80. So the caveat I attach is that I would only back a management team with proven experience in frontier tower markets.” – Kieron Osmotherly, CEO, TowerXchange