Orange to buy Airtel’s operations in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone

13 January 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


Orange is to buy Bharti Airtel’s mobile operations in the west African coastal countries of Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone, adding to its purchase the day before of Cellcom’s business in neighbouring Liberia from its separate owner.

The deals expand Orange’s activities in the region so that it will now have a contiguous group of businesses stretching from Senegal on the west African coast to Mali in the south Sahara. 

Stéphane Richard, the CEO of Orange, tweeted: “Three new African countries to join soon the Orange family. Looking forward to welcoming Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Liberia!”

But Orange has allowed to lapse its agreement in July 2015 to discuss the acquisition of two other Airtel operations in Africa, Chad and Congo Brazzaville. 

According to Orange the businesses in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone have a consolidated annual revenue of €275 million. Orange will buy 100% of the share capital but – as with the Liberian acquisition – it does not give the purchase price.

However Orange says: “The outlay for Orange for these transactions will be based on the financials of Airtel’s two subsidiaries for the year ended March 31 2016 and will represent the equivalent of 7.9 times Airtel’s EBITDA in these two countries at this time.”

These acquisitions will be implemented in partnership with the French group’s subsidiaries in the Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, says Orange.

Burkina Faso is the bigger operation, with 4.2 million customers, according to Richard. Airtel Sierra Leone has 1.3 million. The Cellcom Liberia operation, which is being bought from a separate holding company, LR Group, also has 1.3 million. 

The company said: “This acquisition marks an important step forward in Orange’s dynamic growth strategy and will bring the group’s African footprint up to 20 countries in 2016.”