Airtel Africa to sell 4,500 towers to lower debts

Airtel Africa to sell 4,500 towers to lower debts

09 November 2020 | Natalie Bannerman

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Airtel Africa plans on selling 4,500 of its tower assets across five countries.

According to Bloomberg, the company is attempting to reduce its debts of US$3.5 billion, while at the same time prepare for upcoming bond repayments.

The five countries where Airtel Africa will be divesting its mobile masts include: Chad, Gabon, Madagascar, Malawi and Tanzania.

The news comes after Airtel Africa’s CEO, Raghunath Mandava said in an interview that the company is “constantly seeking to bring down our debt, and we prefer to bring it down even faster with the tower deals.”

At present, the company has a repayment due in May 2021 in the amount of $890 million, with an instalment of $505 million due in March 2023, based on Airtel’s annual report.

Airtel Africa launched its first IPO in London and Nigeria in an attempt to raise $750 million last year. The followed Airtel Africa being spun out from Bharti Airtel as a business in its own right. The IPO lowered the company’s debt from $7.7 billion to $3.5 billion said Mandava to Bloomberg. The remain sum includes $1.8 billion of bonds that have “cross-default clauses with Bharti Airtel, still its biggest shareholder,” Bloomberg explained.

Despite the sale of much of its towers, Mandava says the company will lease back the towers from the buyers – who so far remain unnamed.

Instead, Mandava says the company will continue to its fibre assets adding 9,000km of fibre this year alone, bringing the total to 47,000km “our focus is to grow in the countries that we are in.”