As part of a wider offloading of its African infrastructure, Bharti Airtel has signed a lease agreement with tower firm IHS Holding.
The agreement sees Airtel offloading 1,100 towers in Rwanda and Zambia, then leasing them back for 10 years. The contract can be renewed after this period. It is the first of its type between the two firms.
Airtel’s efforts to divest its African assets are aimed at reducing debt and capital expenditure on physical infrastructure. It will also be able to streamline its focus on its core businesses.
Airtel’s African MD and CEO Christian de Faria said that the deal would “accelerate infrastructure sharing amongst operators and benefit customers in the form of affordable tariffs and wider network coverage”.
The financial details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but regulatory approval from both Rwanda and Zambia will be required. Airtel signed a similar ten-year ‘anchor tenant’ agreement in November, which saw it sell off nearly 5000 telecom towers to American Tower.
The agreement will be a boon to IHS’ efforts to increase the size of its African footprint in order to host shared telecoms infrastructure. Once the deal closes it will boast 21,000 towers in 5 countries – Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zambia. It recently announced that it has raised a capital fund for this purpose.
Airtel recently announced another similar deal that saw it selling towers in Tanzania and Malawi to two other dedicated tower firms, Helios Towers and Eaton Towers.