MTN near deal to sell Nigeria tower network

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MTNStore1 REUTERS File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

London - MTN, Africa’s largest phone operator, is nearing a deal to sell its Nigerian mobile tower network, valued at more than $1 billion (R10.6 billion), to IHS Holding, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

An agreement to sell the business, which comprises about 11,000 towers, was expected to be signed within the next few weeks, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Carriers in Africa are offloading tower assets, which cost more to run on the continent than in other parts of the world because of the need for backup generators and batteries to guard against power failures.

Aside from MTN, Bharti Airtel and Orange are planning to sell mobile tower networks in Africa, people familiar with the matter said in March.

IHS, Africa’s largest independent telecommunications infrastructure company by number of towers managed, raised $490 million in equity and debt from investors including Goldman Sachs in March to fund acquisitions and investments.

The company agreed to buy more than 2,000 towers from Etisalat Nigeria earlier this month and said it would invest further $100 million in the towers acquired.

Chief executive Issam Darwish pledged last year to more than double the company’s assets to 20,000 towers under management by 2016.

A spokesman for Johannesburg-based MTN referred a request for comment to an MTN Nigeria spokeswoman who couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

A spokesman for IHS in London had no immediate comment. - Bloomberg News

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