Africa and Middle East News

A roundup of tower news across SSA and MENA

Cote d’Ivoire: ARTCI strips Comium and GreenN of GSM licenses and reviews offers for a new concession

The Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications in Cote d’Ivoire (Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications de CI, ARTCI) has revoked the licenses of operators GreenN and Comium after months of speculation. With three MNOs remaining – Orange, MTN and Moov, ARTCI is now considering offers for a fourth operator. Offers from Monaco Telecom, Vietnam’s Viettel Group and the Libyan Post Telecommunications and Information Technology Company (LPTIC) have been received, with Viettel thought to be the front runner following its successful entry into several African markets including Mozambique, Burundi and Tanzania.

DRC, Ghana and Tanzania: Millicom to sell 24% stake in Helios Towers Africa

It has been reported that Millicom plans to sell its 24% stake in Helios Towers Africa. In 2010, Helios Tower Africa acquired a portfolio of 2,450 Millicom-owned towers in Ghana, DRC and Tanzania. At that time, Millicom retained equity stakes in the individual tower companies and in Q3 2015 those interests were reorganised into a 24% stake in the parent company to simplify the investment. The value of the transaction will provide an interesting benchmark valuation for African towers with it being highly likely that the details of the transaction will be disclosed.

DRC: Millicom closes the sale of its DRC operations to Orange

Millicom has announced that it has closed the sale of Tigo in the DRC to Orange. The proceeds of the transaction will be used to invest into Millicom’s Latin American operations and other markets in Africa. The move further strengthens Orange’s position in the DRC, which is the largest mobile market in Central and Western Africa after Nigeria.

DRC: Airtel towers still up for grabs

Airtel’s towers in the DRC are still up for grabs with Eaton Towers and Helios Towers Africa battling it out for the portfolio. Eaton Towers which has closed transactions with Airtel in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Uganda expects to close the transaction in Niger shortly. Helios Towers Africa secured Airtel’s towers in Congo Brazzaville, and is currently the only towerco in the DRC with 843 towers.

Ghana: MTN Ghana to invest US$96mn in network upgrade plans

MTN Ghana, the country’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers and winner of one lot of 800MHz spectrum in the recent auctions, has announced it will be investing US$96mn to upgrade its network. It is reported that US$62mn million will be spent on improving the operator’s traditional network, US$16mn million on enhancing its IT network, while US$18mn will be invested in the rollout of 4G LTE services. MTN Ghana’s 2,113 site tower network is owned, operated and marketed for co-location by a joint venture towerco owned 51% by American Tower, 49% by MTN.

Jordan: Orange to build five solar PV plants totaling 33.7MW to power its Jordanian operations

Orange has signed an agreement with a consortium comprising Paris-based Neoen, Jordan’s Millennium Energy Industries (MEI) and Catalyst Private Equity to construct five solar PV plants which will power the company’s entire operations in the country. The project will use a wheeling agreement whereby the PV sites – built at remote locations, will make use of Jordan’s grid, with Orange paying transmission fees. Construction of the solar facilities is expected to commence in late 2016 and, at 33.7MW when complete should generate almost 61GWh a year and save 40,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

Liberia: Orange acquires largest operator for an undisclosed sum

Orange has acquired Cellcom, Liberia’s operator which held a 45% market share in the country ahead of MTN subsidiary, Lonestar. With mobile penetration sitting at 66% in the country, Orange views Liberia has a high growth potential market and a valuable addition to its growing footprint in the market

Mozambique: mCel tower sale imminent; Viettel to follow suit?

State owned operator, mCel is expected to launch a sale of its c. 2,000 towers in the coming weeks, seeking to raise over US$300mn. With no towercos currently in the Mozambique market, the move has piqued the interest of Africa’s resident towercos. Competitor Viettel is reported to be considering a monetisation of its assets although discussions are believed to be in the very early stages. There are a little over 5,000 towers in Mozambique.

Nigeria: MTN pays a proportion of US$3.9bn fine and NCC reinstates regulatory services

The Nigerian Communications Commission has reinstated regulatory services to MTN Nigeria after they made a “good faith” payment towards a fine for failing to meet a deadline to disconnect over five million unregistered SIMs in the country. The initial fine of US$5.2bn had been reduced to US$3.9bn with MTN subsequently withdrawing its lawsuit and the two parties hoping to reach a settlement out of court. The reinstatement of regulatory services will allow MTN to ‘pursue the necessary approvals, in accordance with the NCC regulatory process, for new tariff plans and promotions as well as other regulatory matters’.

Nigeria: IHS acquires HTN Towers in first in Africa’s first towerco consolidation

IHS has announced the acquisition of HTN Tower’s portfolio of 1,211 sites in Nigeria in a landmark deal signifying the first in-market consolidation in the African towerco segment. When closed, the transaction would take IHS’s tower count in Nigeria to 15,722 towers, 53.9% of the country’s 29,190 total. The deal also involved the transfer of HTN’s managed services and co-location marketing agreement concerning SWAP Telecoms & Technologies 702 towers to IHS. For further details, checkout TowerXchange’s analysis of the deal later in this Journal.

Nigeria: IHS acquires Hotspot Network’s 160+ sites and lease agreements with third parties

IHS have reached an agreement with Hotspot Network Limited to acquire Hotspot’s 160+ towers and additional lease agreements the company has on third party sites (primarily billboard monopoles) for just under a billion Naira (c. US$5mn). The deal has been approved by the Nigerian Communications Commission and the two companies are in the process of integrating Hotspot’s sites into IHS’ portfolio, including the addition of power as a service to each site. Hotspot Network Limited’s focus will now shift to rural broadband rollout and data centre management.

Nigeria: NCC to issue remaining five InfraCo licenses this year

Following the award of the first two concessions to IHS and MainOne Cable (for the North Central Zone and Lagos state respectively), the Nigerian Communications Commission has announced that it plans to auction off the remaining five regional InfraCo licenses this year. IHS and MainOne Cable have faced issues in the rollout of new infrastructure but the commission is reportedly working with them to alleviate their concerns.

Nigeria: Flexenclosure secures order to power 1,000 IHS sites

IHS have signed an order with Flexenclosure for 1,000 of its eSite systems to power IHS towers in Nigeria’s Abuja region. The deal is the largest sale of eSite systems that Flexenclosure has closed to date and with the systems using solar energy, the agreement will increase the sustainability of IHS’s footprint in the country significantly.

South Africa: Tata seeks new buyer for Neotel after Vodacom calls off its planned takeover

Vodacom has called off its plans to takeover domestic rival, Neotel after the High Court in Pretoria ruled against Vodacom’s acquisition of Neotel’s spectrum and licenses. The original deal between Vodacom and Tata was signed nearly two years ago amidst strong protestations from other operators in the market: MTN, Telkom and Cell C.  Following the collapse of the deal, Tata Communications are reported to be seeking an alternative buyer.

Tanzania: Helios Towers Tanzania secures US$95mn loan facility from Standard Bank

Helios Towers Tanzania (HTT) has arranged a US$95mn syndicated loan facility, coordinated through Standard Bank with Stanbic Bank Tanzania, FMO, Investec Bank, National Micro Finance Bank and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund as mandated lead arrangers. The funds will be used to expand the Helios Towers’ operations in the country, which is the company’s largest market where they possess a portfolio of 3,582 towers. Since HTT’s launch in 2011, approximately 5,500 base stations have been added to Tanzanian networks, but only 2,900 new towers added thanks to sharing.

Tanzania: Halotel to install infrastructure in 1,800 villages by October 2016

Halotel, Viettel’s Tanzanian operation has announced plans to install towers in 1,800 villages by October of this year. The company launched in Tanzania in October 2014 and has since covered 1,500 towns and villages and reached 90% population coverage. The planned additional infrastructure rollout should take this figure to 95% by the end of the year. TowerXchange understands Viettel has built ~3,000 towers, and co-located on 1,000 more since launch.

Tanzania: American Tower acquires 1,350 Airtel sites

Bharti Airtel has reached a deal with American Tower Corporation to sell their 1,350 Tanzanian towers. The deal, which is expected to close in H1 FY16, had a purchase price of US$179mn, representing an average cost per tower of US$132.6k. Under the terms of the agreement, Airtel will be the anchor tenant on the towers with an initial ten-year lease, with the deal potentially to be expanded to include an additional 100 sites that are currently under development. The move is the latest in Airtel’s strategy to divest their assets across the continent and helps to bolster American Tower’s African portfolio, adding a fifth country to their footprint. For further details, checkout TowerXchange’s analysis of the deal later in this Journal.

Uganda: MTN plans to spend US65mn to upgrade and expand its network

With strong data growth forecasted in the market, MTN plans to invest US$65mn in upgrading and expanding its Ugandan networks. Of the company’s 5.4 million data customers only 9% are currently covered by its 3G and 4G broadband networks; the company aims to increase this figure to 15% and 20% in 2016. The US$65mn will reportedly be spent on the deployment of 200 additional 3G sites, a further 100 4G LTE base stations as well as 400km of fibre. MTN Uganda’s 1,393 site tower network is owned, operated and marketed for co-location by a joint venture towerco owned 51% by American Tower, 49% by MTN.

Zambia: Vodafone rumoured to have been awarded fourth operator license

Whilst the announcement is yet to be confirmed, it is rumoured that Vodafone has been awarded the fourth operator license by the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority. The government issued an ultimatum to the country’s three operators – MTN, Airtel and Zamtel in October 2015 to improve their service or face the introduction of a new operator in the market. A six month period was given to improve their service and with the deadline imminent it is reported that Vodafone have already appointed a CEO for their Zambian operations. IHS owns and leases out 1,964 towers in Zambia, representing 80-90% of the total inventory of towers in the country, so co-location could accelerate any prospective rollout by Vodafone.

Zambia: Airtel to invest US$48mn in infrastructure upgrades and a further US$30mn in diesel generators

Airtel Zambia has announced that it will be investing US$48mn on infrastructure upgrades in the country including the installation of a fibre network. With the power situation in the country having impacted on service provision, the company plans to spend a further US$30mn on the procurement and installation of generators to improve power supply. Airtel Zambia recently sold their towers to IHS.

Egypt: MobiNil rebrands as Orange Egypt and plans US$318mn network expansion and service improvements

Following the completion of Orange’s 99% buyout of the Egyptian MNO, MobiNil has rebranded to Orange Egypt. The company has announced plans to invest US$318mn on improving its network and service delivery in the country, with a heavy focus on mobile broadband. The company has also announced plans to bid for a 4G license. These investments could be partly funded by the sale of additional towers; Orange sold 2,000 Egyptian towers to Eaton in 2015, raising US$131mn.

MENA news

Algeria: VimpelCom tower monetisation could see Algerian towers sold

VimpelCom’s global tower monetisation process could soon expand to Algeria. VimpelCom’s Global Telecom Holding owns 45.57% of market leader Djezzy, with 51% owned by the government and 3.43% by Cevital. Meanwhile, Algeria Telecom are seeking to upgrade 70% of infrastructure in 2016, and considering an IPO to raise capital. There are an estimated 17,500 towers in Algeria, serving 248.3mn subscribers.

Algeria: ARPT names three operators for the first phase of the Universal Telecommunications Service programme

Algerie Telecom (AT), Algeria Telecom Mobile (Mobilis) and Optimum Telecom Algerie (OTA, Djezzy) have been awarded authorisations by Algeria’s telecoms watchdog the Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications (Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Telecoms, ARPT) for the provision of basic telecoms services (wireless or fixed) and internet access at affordable prices to underserved areas. The move is part of the country’s Universal Telecommunications Service (UTS) programme aimed at bringing coverage to a total of 97 communities in 28 wilayas (regions) in Southern Algeria.

Saudi Arabia: Mobily reviewing offers for towers; Saudi Telecom Company joins Mobily and Zain in exploring a tower sale

Saudi Arabia’s Mobily is currently reviewing a number of offers for its ~9,600 telecom towers having announced its intention to sell, viewing them as a non-core asset which are complicated to manage. After competitor, Zain had expressed a similar interest, rival Saudi Telecom Company is now reportedly looking into a potential monetisation of its assets in the country. IHS, Digital Bridge (reportedly with the backed of Abraaj Group and Saudi Aramco) and Providence Equity are believed to be leading contenders for Saudi towers.

UAE: Etisalat and du explore JV infraco in UAE

Clear market leaders in the UAE Etisalat and du are exploring the opportunity to create a joint venture infrastructure company. Delta Partners estimates there are around 8,500 towers in the UAE, while GSMA Intelligence reports there are 8.5mn SIMs (92% SIM penetration).


Leave a Reply