Bharti Airtel is set to sell 4,800 of its communication towers to American Tower Corporation in Nigeria in an effort to cut its debt. American Tower and Airtel are expected to close the deal during the first half of 2015, subject to regulatory approvals. According to a Reuters report, American Towers values the deal to be around $1.05 billion subject to adjustments.
Under the deal, Airtel will be the anchor tenant on the portfolio under a lease with a ten-year initial term. American Tower Corp entered the deal through Bharti Airtel’s international subsidiary, Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) BV.
Bharti Airtel has been scaling down its operations in Africa due to high operating costs in the continent. In September, Airtel sold 3500 towers to Eaton Towers in six African nations, and in July it sold 3100 towers in four countries to Helios Towers Africa. The Helios Towers deal was valued at $2 billion. At the time, it was reported that Airtel was chalking out similar deals for the remaining 12,900 it has in Africa.
As part of its Africa operations, Bharti Airtel signed a definitive agreement with Essar Telecommunications to acquire 2.3 million subscribers who operate under the brand name yuMobile in Kenya, in September this year. This transaction is subject to approval from Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) and is likely to be concluded by fourth quarter of 2014. According to an earlier report, the deal will be in the sub-$100 million one, ranging somewhere around $70-75 million.
Bharti Airtel, the country’s top telecommunications operator, entered Africa in 2010 by acquiring local telecom operators for $9 billion, funded by debt.
It is also interesting to note, that Bharti Airtel International, has already tapped the overseas bond market twice for funds to refinance its $9 billion debt. The company concluded one of the largest overseas bond issues this year earlier in May, raising $1 billion in dollar-denominated bonds and 750 million euros in euro-denominated bonds and earlier in March, raised CHF (Swiss Francs) 350 million. Typically during refinancing, a company will replace an existing loan with new favourable terms.