Russian operators in tower asset sale spree

Russian operators in tower asset sale spree

Three of Russia’s mobile operators - Veon, MTS, and MegaFon - are in the process of offloading their tower portfolios.

Recently, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has approved the purchase by the Service-Telecom group of companies from Veon holding 100% of the National Tower Company (NBK). Veon (owns Vimpelcom, the Beeline brand) agreed with Service-Telecom to sell the NBK to it for 70.65 billion rubles ($ 970 million), with the transaction expected to close in 4Q21.

Russia's biggest mobile operator MTS came next with shareholders approving the formation of wholly-owned towerco, Tower Infrastructure Company. The process of separating tower assets into a separate company is underway, after which a sale is possible, said company sources. Kommersant daily quoted Chief Executive Vyacheslav Nikolaev saying that MTS would have about 23,000 towers by the end of 2021, about 30% more than the nearest competitor.

MegaFon has already informed its plan to form a new independent tower company with Kismet. The new company will be created by combining the assets of MegaFon’s First Tower Company valued at ₽94.2 billion ($1.35 billion), consisting of approx. 17,000 towers and supporting structures, with over 5,000 structures of Vertical controlled by Kismet.

According to local media, the combined company will become a completely independent tower operator, allowing MegaFon to focus on the development of its main telecommunications services business and retain a share in a tower company with high-growth potential. Once the deal closes, MegaFon will lease towers from the combined company.