Bangladesh: Public hearing on proposed Robi-Airtel merger requested, and deadline set
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh’s ICT affairs adviser has directed the telecom regulator to take a public opinion poll before making a final decision on the proposed merger between Robi and Airtel. A high court bench has now given eight weeks on 26 January for the government and the telecom regulator to reach a final decision. The BTRC has six weeks to give a final opinion after which the government will have two weeks to make its final decision.
China: Handover of assets to China Tower Company completed
China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom have completed the handover of their tower assets to the newly-formed China Tower Company. The three operators have handed over an estimated 1.2 million towers creating the world’s largest towerco worth an estimated US$34bn. The three companies have been allocated shares in the new company with China Mobile holding 38%, China Unicom holding 28.1%, China Telecom holding 27.9%.
China: Alibaba and Tencent showing interest in China Tower Company
Chinese internet companies Alibaba and Tencent are rumoured to be interested in acquiring a stake in China’s state-owned China Tower Company (CTC). Other interested investors include Blackstone and Goldman Sachs via its advisor China International Capital Corporation (CICC). China Tower Company is said to be looking to sell a 20% stake that could raise up to US$9.7bn, and is looking to list the company on the market in 2017.
China: Miteno and Q Towers added to TowerXchange advisory board
As TowerXchange continue to explore the possibility of hosting a TowerXchange Meetup for China, we are grateful for the ongoing support of Zhiying Zhang, Chairman and President of Beijing Miteno Tower Company Limited (“Miteno”), and Ted Zhong, CEO of Q Towers International. Both gentlemen have been appointed to the TowerXchange ‘Inner Circle’ informal advisory board. Miteno has around 1,000 and Q Towers 120 independently owned towers in China, and they are two of the most active members of a growing segment of independent towercos in China who own over 10,000 towers between them.
India: American Tower acquisition of Viom Networks approved
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has approved the sale of a 51% stake in Viom Networks to American Tower Corporation for US$ 3.23bn. Viom Networks owns and operates approximately 42,200 towers and has another 1,000 mobile masts under construction. As a pre-condition of the deal, American Tower Corporation’s existing 14,000 towers in India will be merged with Viom. American Tower Corporation will acquire stake from the other shareholders including 18.5% from SREI, and some shares from Tata Teleservices, GIC, Macquarie, Oman Investment Fund and IDFC Private Equity.
India: Reliance Communications to sell Reliance Infratel
Reliance Communications announced last December that it had signed a non-binding exclusivity agreement valid until 15 January to sell Reliance Infratel to Tillman Global Holdings and TPG Asia. The exclusivity agreement has been extended by 15 days to resolve some issues so that a conclusive agreement can be reached. Rcomm is said to be making this US$3.21bn sale to decrease its debt which stands at US$5.97bn. Tillman Global Holdings and TPG Asia are also evaluating the potential acquisition of Rcomm’s 190,000km fibre optic network.
India: Reliance Communications, Aircel and Sistema discuss merger
RCom, AIrcel and Sistema are in talks to create a new combined entity that could offer 3G services in 18 circles and launch 4G services on the 2300 MHz band in eight cities in India. The new entity would combine the assets of the three companies into a new US$ 5.22 bn entity. The talks began in late December and are set to last 90 days. Obstacles to the deal include regulatory limits on the amount of spectrum allowed to a single company, and the heavy debt burden of RCom and Aircel.
India: Reliance Jio employs green towers to counter public opposition to deployments
Reliance Jio Infocomm has developed state-of-the-art green towers that operate on lithium-ion batteries and are designed to consume only 600-700 Watts, 75% lower than most conventional towers currently used. The towers are also built to rise 25m to 30m above the buildings and streets below to reduce the exposure to radiation. The towers also have a small footprint and can be used to mount lighting, security cameras, and equipment for public messaging. Reliance plans to deploy over 100,000 of these towers over the next three years to support its planned launch of 4G services in March.
India: Ascend Telecom to merge with ROI Acquisition Group
Ascend Telecom Holdings Limited (“Ascend Holdings”) and ROI Acquisition Corp. announced a merger agreement for a business combination transaction. Ascend Telecom Infrastructure is to become an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Ascend Holdings and ROI stockholders will exchange their shares of ROI common stock for ordinary shares of Ascend Holdings on a one-for-one basis. The proposed deal was amended in October in response to market volatility in the equity markets of emerging economies. The aim of the agreement is to provide Ascend Holdings access to U.S. capital markets as it embarks on its next phase of growth in order to meet the increasing demand for mobile voice, data and information in India.
India: New Chief Executive Officer-Designate at Indus Towers
Bimal Dayal, COO of Indus Towers has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer -Designate. Dayal is taking over from outgoing CEO B.S. Shantharaju who is retiring after six years with Indus Towers. Dayal has 28 years of telecoms industry experience and has worked with companies such as Ericsson, Qualcomm and Tata Telecom. Bimal is a member of the TowerXchange ‘Inner Circle’ informal advisory board.
Indonesia: Controversy over allowing foreign ownership of assets in Indonesia
There is an ongoing debate about permitting foreign investors to enter the tower business in Indonesia. The Minister of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) Rudiantara confirmed that there has been no formal discussion on the subject and that it would be a cross-ministry matter, and at this point the building of towers remains closed to foreign investors. Local companies fear that the entry of foreign investors would lead to increased competition and local players could be pushed out, and the proposed change is facing resistance.
Indonesia: Protelindo and Tower Bersama interested in IBS Tower
Both Protelindo and Tower Bersama have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring PT Inti Bangun Sejahtera, Tbk (IBS), however no formal bidding process has started at this point. IBS has 2,000 towers, but with a relatively low tenancy ratio, having one major client, Smartfren. There are strong ownership links between IBS Tower and Smartfren.
Indonesia: XL Axiata reduces losses by 40%, and plans another infrastructure sale
XL Axiata announced that measures taken by its management team last April have enabled the company to trim its losses by 40% to US$37.1mn. The end results were also impacted by forex losses due to the strengthening of the US$. The company is also looking to increase its balance sheet by selling up to US$500mn worth of its infrastructure assets, and hopes to conclude the sale by the end of 2016. Furthermore, XL Axiata says it is continuing to invest in its networks and services, spending IDR3 trillion in the first nine months of this year. With a strong emphasis on mobile broadband, XL deployed almost 18,000 3G base stations in 9M15, and boosted the number of 4G sites to 1,018, taking its overall total to 56,300 base stations by the end of the period under review.
Indonesia: Indosat Ooredoo and XL Axiata launch network cooperation to increase 4G coverage
Indosat Ooredoo and XL Axiata announced that they will share infrastructure for 4G through MORAN (Multi Operator Radio Access Network). The deal, which had been in negotiation for two years, will include the companies’ existing 4G network in cities including Banyumas, Surakarta, Batam and Banjarmasin. This marks the first instance of network sharing in Indonesia.
Malaysia: Axiata obtains funding from the sukuk market to support acquisitions
The Axiata Group has negotiated a US$500 mn sukuk to help fund recent acquisitions in Myanmar and Nepal. The five year deal was priced at a rate of 3.466%. The deal is an important one for Axiata and will create a benchmark for future US dollar issuances. This is the first sukuk that Axiata has obtained since a one billion renminbi offering in 2012.
Malaysia: CSMO of edotco receives industry award
Wan Zainal Adileen Puteh, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of edotco, was recognised as one of the “100 Most Influential Marketing Leaders” at the World Marketing Congress in Mumbai. The award celebrates the best marketing leaders from top organisations, identified based on a combination of marketing competencies, strategic perspective, track record, integrity, ethics, and their commitment to sustainability.
Malaysia: edotco launches unique mobile cell site
The edotco Mobility Solution (eMOS) is a mobile cell site consisting of a cellular antenna tower and electronic radio transceiver equipment, and is used to provide extended cellular network coverage for short-term demands in areas where cellular coverage and capacity is minimal, was never present or was compromised by natural disaster,
The first in Malaysia, eMOS promotes sharing of mobile cell site amongst multiple telecom operators. This is instrumental in allowing a number of operators to enter remote regions/areas that would normally cost higher in rollouts.
Myanmar: edotco extends footprint to Myanmar with acquisition of MTC
edotco has closed a deal to acquire a 75% controlling stake in Digicel Myanmar Tower Company (MTC). The transaction values MTC at an enterprise value of US$221mn. Minority shareholder Yoma Strategic Holding will retain their 25% stake, giving edotco a connection with Burmese tycoon Serge Pun who has invaluable local real estate and financial connections. The deal brings edotco’s tower count to 16,450 and extends their footprint to include Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and now Myanmar. edotco’s acquisition sets a benchmark price per tower of US$176,800 in Myanmar. While this is a considerably higher price than India, where towers changed hands for an average of US$114,301 between 2009 and 2015, lease rates in India are typically just US$600 whereas is Myanmar lease rates range from US$1,400 to US$1,700, driven by relatively high opex. edotco has since stated intent to invest US$200mn into Myanmar over the next five years, and planning to construct 5,000 towers in the country in the next three years.
Myanmar: Seven companies bid for Myanmar’s fourth telecom license
Bidding for the fourth telecom license in Myanmar has taken place after a nearly four month delay. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology declined to share the names of the bidders. The successful applicant will receive a 15-year license and form a joint venture with a consortium of eleven local companies including Yatanarpon Teleport (YTP). The consortium will retain a 51% share of the joint venture and the foreign partner will hold a 49% share.
Myanmar: IGT acquires loan of US$122mn to support network deployment in Myanmar
Irrawaddy Green Towers has secured a syndicated loan of US$122mn, forming part of the company’s US$230mn investment plan to deploy more than 2,000 towers in Myanmar and provide coverage to 14 million people. The Netherlands FMO arranged a subordinated loan of US$13m via its Infrastructure Development Fund, and a senior loan of US$109mn was provided by Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG), France’s Proparco, CDC Group (UK), the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) and Austria’s Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank (OeEB).
Myanmar: Telenor Myanmar signs MoU with OCK Group and King Royal Technologies
Telenor Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia’s OCK Group and its local Myanmar partner King Royal Technologies for the construction and lease of more than 900 towers. Telenor has enlisted new tower companies to expand its supply chain and enable it to reach the coverage required by its license, 90% of the country, within five years. Telenor had built 3,700 sites in 13 states and regions in Myanmar as of December and has estimated that 9,000 sites will be needed to provide the necessary coverage.
Nepal: Axiata Group acquires Nepal MNO Ncell
The Axiata Group has reached an agreement to acquire TeliaSonera’s stake in mobile operator Ncell for US$1.03bn, continuing its expansion across Asia. Axiata will acquire 60.4% stake in the company, and TeliaSonera will also receive an additional US$48mn after dissolving economic interests in a 20% stake in the company owned by a local ownership structure in compliance with local laws. Axiata will then pay approximately US$335mn to acquire SEA Telecoms stake, giving it a total 80.4% stake. Axiata has cited Ncell as both a rare and opportunistic expansion of its footprint in South Asia due to its sizeable, high quality assets and number one market leadership position. TowerXchange expect Axiata’s entry into Nepal to herald edotco entering the market in 2016.
Pakistan: Towershare selects Qowisio for RMS
MENASA-focused towerco Towershare, currently the largest independent tower sharing company in Pakistan, has installed Qowisio products to monitor their sites 24/7/365 from their NOC. “This transaction is key to our growth plans and commitment to remaining the leading tower company in the region,” said Jonas Thessén, CTO of Towershare. “The ability to remotely access and collect data regarding the operation of each tower site and react in real time to any alarms is extremely important to consistently meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations on availability.”
“Towershare and Qowisio share the same vision of having a scalable infrastructure and providing simplicity in terms of installation, usage and maintenance. Qowisio is proud to support Towershare with the most innovative and reliable RMS solution based on fully wireless equipment to meet those high level expectations,” added Guillaume Houssay, General Manager of Qowisio.
Pakistan: Etisalat looking into sale of towers in Pakistan
Etisalat’s Ufone is said to have started to look for buyers for its towers in Pakistan. Ufone is the fourth largest MNO in the country, and has several potential buyers interested including edotco. Etisalat has owned Ufone since PTCL’s privitisation in Ufone has a market share of 18% of Pakistan’s mobile subscribers and a network encompassing 10,000 locations.
Pakistan: VimpelCom and Global Telecom Holding combine Pakistan telecom business with Warid Telecom
An agreement was reached between VimpelCom, Global Telecom Holdings, Warid Telecom Pakistan and Bank Alfalah to merge their Pakistan telecom businesses and creating a new combined entity serving 45 million customers. This is the first merger in the mobile telecommunications sector in Pakistan and it will allow Mobilink and Warid to increase the availability of high-speed services. Mobilink will first acquire 100% of Warid’s shares and then the parties intend to merge Warid into Mobilink. The transaction is expected to close by late May subject to obtianing approvals from the relevant authorities in Pakistan and the satisfaction of the necessary closing conditions.
The closure of the transaction may precipitate one or both parties selling their towers to reduce debt, indeed Mobilink’s process is under way. With upwards of 50% overlap between Mobilink and Warid’s networks, the necessity of decommissioning suggests the same towerco may have to acquire both portfolios. With around 15,000 towers on the two MNO’s balance sheets, and assuming a per tower valuation similar to the US$76,540 Southern Asia benchmark recently established by the American Tower-Viom Networks deal, the question must be, do edotco, Quippo or Towershare (the most likely bidders) have an appetite to invest the over US$1bn into Pakistani telecoms to acquire both Mobilink and Warid’s towers?
Pakistan: VimpelCom receives first offers for its Pakistani towers
VimpelCom has reportedly received the first offers for the divestment of its tower portfolios in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The company had long been rumoured to be looking to divest its tower assets in these markets to reduce debt and focus resources on other markets.
Pakistan: Telenor and Zong to share fibre-optic networks
Telenor Pakistan and China Mobile Pakistan (Zong) have signed an agreement to share their fibre-optic networks. The agreement allows access to hundreds of kilometres of deployed fibre, and will enable the companies to meet rising demand for mobile data services while improving transmission capacity and reducing costs.
Pakistan: Pakistan reached nearly 16 million mobile broadband connections in August
There were a total of 15.8 million mobile broadband users in Pakistan in August 2015, representing a penetration of 13%. Over 1.1 million subscribers were added in the month of August alone with Telenor adding 395,000 customers, Zong adding 395,000, Mobilink adding 74,000, Ufone adding 343,000 and Warid Telecom adding over 18,000 4G connections.
Sri Lanka: Dialog Axiata denies agreement to acquire Bharti Airtel Lanka
Dialog Axiata has stated that it has not entered into a merger acquisition deal with Bharti Airtel Lanka, contrary to rumours circulating in November 2015. Dialog stated that it is evaluating opportunities for organic and inorganic growth, and that it will make a disclosure should it reach material certainty. Bharti Airtel Lanka operates 2,500 towers and provides 2G, 3G and 3.5G services.
Thailand: Potential partnership between TOT and AIS under discussion
TOT has set up a bid for a partnership to provide mobile services on its cellular infrastructure, including LTE services, and AIS is likely to be the partner. Under the proposal TOT will rent 80% of its mobile network capacity to AIS leaving the remaining 20% free to be leased to other companies