Bharti Airtel has launched plans to offload most of its transmitter towers in Nigeria through a sale process that could raise up to two billion dollars and help reduce the operator’s debt, two banking sources familiar with the process told India’s Business Week.
Bharti entered Africa with the nine billion dollar acquisition of the operations of Kuwaiti telecom party Zain in the region in 2010, and is already moving to sell off various assets.
The maintenance of transmitters in Africa can be particularly expensive due to the added costs of security, logistics and the need for power generators to safeguard the towers against outages.
This has increasingly led operators to seek to sell or lease towers to specialist firms such as Eaton Towers, Helios Towers Africa, American Tower Corp and IHS.
Several telecom operators have already offloaded some of their towers, including South Africa’s MTN, which in December agreed to sell 1,228 towers in Rwanda and Zambia to the Lagos-listed IHS.
One Indian banking source said: “While other telecom operators have sought to offload towers in Africa due to the inherent difficulty in operating them, Bharti has the added reason of reducing its debt burden, most of which was taken up for the Zain acquisition.”
In March 2013, the company had a net debt of $11.7bn.