Bharti sells tower assets in Africa

Operator group Bharti Airtel, which focuses on emerging markets in Asia and Africa, has divested 3,100 telecom towers to Helios Towers Africa for an undisclosed sum. Local reports suggest the deal could raise as much as $2bn.

Airtel said the funds will help it reduce debt, while the asset transfer will reduce ongoing capital expenditure. Tower operations related personnel will also also transfer to Helios and the carrier will maintain full access to all towers under a long term lease contract.

Manoj Kohli, Chairman, Bharti Airtel, said of the deal: “The agreement is another milestone in Airtel’s growth journey in Africa. Airtel pioneered the concept of a separate tower entity to promote infrastructure sharing in India and this agreement is a continuation of that philosophy. It is an important step towards the consolidation of tower assets across Africa that will drive industry-wide cost efficiencies through infrastructure sharing. The agreement will further help in accelerating the growth of telecom services in the continent and at the same time benefit the environment by avoiding duplication of infrastructure.”

Bharti has been a proponent of infrastructure sharing across its assets. Last year the company announced an infrastructure sharing agreement in India with Reliance Jio Infocomm to share their inter and intra city fibre networks, submarine cable networks, towers and internet broadband services to avoid duplication of assets.

Helios is one of the leading tower owners in Africa now, with this latest move extending its tower coverage in Africa to over 7,800 owned towers.

Africa is a hotbed of infrastructure sharing and outsourcing as operators seek to reduce the capital expenditure required to expand service into low-ARPU parts of their market, while also preventing duplication of coverage.

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