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Airtel Africa planning to sell 4,500 towers to reduce its $3.5 bn debt

Airtel has a repayment of 750 million euros ($890 million) due in May, while an installment of $505 million is due in March 2023, according to the annual report

Topics
Airtel Africa | Telecom tower | telecom sector

Loni Prinsloo | Bloomberg 

airtel, airtel africa, tanzania
Many of Airtel Africa’s 14 markets border each other, making it easier to roll out fiber even during the Covid-19 pandemic

Plc plans to sell about 4,500 telecommunication towers across five countries including Tanzania and Madagascar to help reduce $3.5 billion of debt and prepare for looming bond repayments.

Africa’s second-largest carrier by subscribers is also disposing of cellular masts in Gabon, Malawi and Chad, Chief Executive Officer Raghunath Mandava said in an interview. “We are constantly seeking to bring down our debt, and we prefer to bring it down even faster with the tower deals,” he said.

Airtel has a repayment of 750 million euros ($890 million) due in May, while an installment of $505 million is due in March 2023, according to the annual report.

The company, which was spun off from India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. last year and is listed in London and Nigeria, used the proceeds of the dual initial public offering to help cut borrowings to $3.5 billion from about $7.7 billion, the CEO said. The outstanding balance includes $1.8 billion of bonds that have cross-default clauses with Bharti Airtel, still its biggest shareholder.

The stock has declined 18% since the June, 2019 IPO, valuing the company at 2.4 billion pounds ($3.1 billion).

Fibre network

A number of the continent’s wireless carriers have been selling similar tower assets to specialist operators, opting to save on maintenance costs, allay security concerns and bypass shortfalls in power and road infrastructure. Meanwhile the need for additional masts in Africa is increasing as millions more adopt smartphones and faster broadband is needed.

plans to lease back the towers from the buyers, Mandava said.

Many of Airtel Africa’s 14 markets border each other, making it easier to roll out fiber even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the CEO said.

The company has added 9,000 kilometers (5,592 miles) of cable this year, bringing the total to 47,000 kilometers.

“Our focus is to grow in the countries that we are in,” he said.

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First Published: Fri, November 06 2020. 17:57 IST
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