After selling its tower infrastructure in 7 African countries to Eaton Towers, Bharti Airtel is believed to be on the verge of agreeing a deal to sell its Nigerian towers business for more than $1 billion.
Reportedly, a deal could be as close as 3 weeks away, with American Tower Company (ATC) believed to be the forerunner and IHS Towers is another candidate in the running. If the deal closes, Airtel will have sold almost half of its African towers.
Bharti is selling off assets in order to reduce its debt, which dropped to $9.6 billion at the end of June, down from $10.07 billion at the end of March. The operator’s net debt-to-EBITDA dropped to 2.04 from 2.20 between the two quarters.
In addition to the Eaton Towers sale, in July Bharti offloaded 3100 of its African towers to Helios Tower Co. While the final amount has not been officially revealed, it is believed to be close to $800 million.
Bharti is aiming to raise around $3 billion by selling off its African infrastructure, after it failed to form a joint venture focused on towers, in the vein of Indus Towers, its JV with Vodafone and Idea in India. The operator owns around 15,000 towers across 17 African countries.
Many African operators – including MTN – are offloading their towers to independent companies as a means of reducing operating expenditure in sparsely populated areas. The operators then lease the towers back on a long-term basis in order to provide services. The buyers are able to profit from this arrangement by renting out towers to multiple operators.