(By Riddhi Mukherjee & Vikas SN)
India’s largest telco Bharti Airtel has signed an agreement to sell and lease back over 3,100 towers in four countries across Africa to the telecom tower operator Helios Towers Africa (HTA). This accounts for around one-fifth of 15,000 towers that Airtel owns in Africa.
As part of the agreement, Airtel mentions that it will have complete access to the towers from HTA under a long-term lease contract. It also envisages transferring tower operations-related personnel from Airtel to HTA.
The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, although a The Economic Times report cites a source to suggest that the deal is valued at $400 million (around Rs 2,400 crore). It also adds that the towers are based in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Chad.
Airtel mentions that this deal will help them reduce debt and significantly reduce the ongoing capital expenditure on passive infrastructure. It will also enable the telco to focus on its core business and customers.
According to a Livemint report, Airtel is apparently chalking out similar deals for the remaining 12,900 towers as well, which is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.
On the other hand, HTA which solely focuses on providing telecom infrastructure solutions, will be able to increase its tower coverage in Africa to over 7,800 towers. The company currently operates in Ghana, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Following the Airtel deal, HTA has also raised $630 million investment from new and existing investors last week. The company has raised a total 0f $1.8 billion in external financing since its launch in late 2009. It also now claims to be the largest tower company in Africa on an owned-tower basis.
Airtel Africa financials: Airtel Africa had reported an increased net loss of $124 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2014, a 24% increase from $100 million loss in the previous quarter and a 36.3% increase from a net loss of $91 million from the same quarter last year.
The total revenue was at $1.15 billion for the quarter, down 1.7% from $1.17 billion in the previous quarter but up 2.2% from $1.12 billion in the same quarter last year.
The capital expenditure had also increased for the quarter to $176 million, up from $140 million in the previous quarter and $154 million in the same quarter last year.