Following an announcement late last year that it was looking at the strategic and financial merits of a sale and leaseback deal for its tower portfolio, South African operator MTN has been keen to underline the need for a successful bidder to take good care of this asset.
The operator has a portfolio of around 13,000 telecommunication towers and, according to South Africa’s IT Web news service, is prioritising high-quality operators for tower infrastructure that it will obviously continue to use after the sale.
There will, of course, also be a large amount of money involved in the deal, something that has proved a major attraction of sale and leaseback for a number of operators, both in Africa and across the world, in a trend that is gathering pace.
We do not know, however, how much MTN hopes to make from the sale, or indeed from whom, although MTN apparently claims to have received over 20 expressions of interest from numerous relevant companies, both in South Africa and beyond.
However, although it has underlined, in the press and elsewhere, its requirement that only the highest-quality tower operators should maintain what it calls “South Africa’s best mobile network”, this won’t be entirely plain sailing.
The new operator will need to manage a number of worsening issues highlighted by IT Web – including theft of batteries, copper cables and diesel – that both MTN and its competitors have to deal with.