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IHS Towers coughs up $413m for 5,700 MTN sites

Telco tower assets are changing hands at a rapid rate; this week the action is taking place in South Africa.

IHS Towers, which boasts more than 30,500 towers spreading from Peru to Kuwait via Sub-Saharan Africa, on Wednesday agreed a 6.4 billion rand ($413 million) buy and leaseback deal with MTN involving 5,709 sites. The deal will also see IHS provide power-as-a-service (PaaS) to 12,800 MTN towers, including those it has just acquired.

“I am exceptionally proud to announce IHS’ creation of the largest independent tower operator in South Africa, which represents the start of a new chapter in South Africa’s telecommunications infrastructure sector. The country has a growing population of almost 60 million people and we are committed to utilising our operational expertise to invest in the towers acquired and provide cutting edge power services where necessary,” said IHS Towers CEO Sam Darwish, in a statement.

In a stock exchange filing, MTN said the deal is part of its asset realisation programme (ARP), and frees up resources that can be spent on improving services to wholesale and retail customers.

“Proceeds will be reinvested into strategic growth initiatives, such as securing high demand spectrum frequencies, and providing MTN with additional balance sheet flexibility,” the telco said.

The MTN transaction comes not long after IHS struck a deal paving the way for its entry into Egypt. In October, IHS partnered with Egypt Digital Company for Investment (EDCI), the largest shareholder of Egypt Towers for Technology Services Company, to form a new joint venture that will obtain a licence to build and operate telecoms towers. IHS will own 80 percent of the new company, which will be called IHS Telecom Towers Egypt, and EDCI will own the remaining 20 percent.

“With this [MTN] transaction and our partnership with the Egypt Digital Company for Investment as announced last month, IHS now has a footprint in seven African markets, in addition to our four newer markets in LatAm and MENA,” Darwish said.

The MTN deal is subject to regulatory approvals, and is expected to close during the first quarter of 2021.

In other IHS Towers news, the company not only announced its first set of quarterlies since going public, which met the expectations of its CEO, but it also closed the acquisition of the controlling interest in a Brazilian fibre infrastructure company from TIM. IHS Towers seems determined to be no less energetic and ambitious than the likes of Cellnex and American Towers in this hot sector.


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