Helios Towers Africa buys Airtel’s Congo towers

06 May 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


Indian-owned operator Bharti Airtel has sold 950 mobile phone towers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Helios Towers Africa (HTA).

No price was given for the deal, which expands HTA’s African business to more than 6,500 towers in a number of countries.. 

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Kash Pandya, CEO of HTA, said: “This is a ground-breaking move for HTA, and Airtel’s decision is a significant endorsement of HTA’s reputation, management team and operating track record.”

The deal follows a number of other deals by Airtel to sell its towers to independent operators. 

In October 2015 Airtel said that it had completed the sale of about 8,300 mobile towers in Africa for $1.7 billion. The divestments were part of the operator’s wider plan to sell towers in 13 markets. “We have completed the sale transactions in seven countries for approximately 8,300 towers representing close to 60% of the total tower base,” said Airtel at the time. 

Those deals included the sale of 949 mobile sites in Zambia to IHS Holding.

Since then, the company has sold 1,350 towers in Tanzania to American Tower, a deal that credit rating agency Moody’s valued at $200 million.

Christian De Faria, Bharti Airtel executive chairman, said about the DRC deal: “The agreement is in line with our stated philosophy of divesting passive infrastructure and promoting sharing of towers to enhance operational efficiencies that will further the growth of telecom services. Airtel remains committed to DRC and will continue to invest in its operations and serve customers with world-class services.” 

The company said that the agreement will allow it to focus on its core business and customers, while enabling it to deleverage through debt reduction. The deal will significantly reduce Airtel’s ongoing capital expenditure on passive infrastructure and also mitigate the proliferation of towers through enhanced sharing.