Bharti Airtel is offloading most of its towers in Africa to reduce costs while Aircel is considering buying back the towers it sold to GTL Infrastructure four years ago.
Aircel, owned by Malaysia’s Maxis, has lined up loans of almost $1 billion to repurchase the towers, the Economic Times reported. Aircel reportedly has failed to meet the terms of a deal with GTL and is now subject to penalties.
The operator had committed to leasing 20,000 sites, but slowed its expansion after it faced both a price war and an investigation into the country’s 2G spectrum sale.
ET said GTL is pushing for Aircel to not only buy back its 17,000 towers, but take its other 15,000 masts as well.
Meanwhile, Airtel announced today it has sold more than 3,500 telecoms towers in six countries in Africa to Eaton Towers, which will lease them back to Airtel in a 10-year deal.
The operator said in a statement that the agreement will allow it to focus on its core business, deleverage through debt reduction and significantly reduce its on-going CAPEX on passive infrastructure.
The financial details of the agreement were not disclosed, Economic Times said. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals.
Eaton Tower said the acquisition is a step towards giving it the scale it needs to lower operating costs, expand coverage and improve quality of service.
“This is a transformational deal that gives Eaton Towers the most diversified tower portfolio across Africa,” CEO Alan Harper said.
Airtel also announced it is expected to name a buyer for its 4,000 towers in Nigeria for an estimated $1 billion within the next three weeks.
American Tower Company is believed to have put in the top bid, followed by IHS Towers. After the sale, Bharti will have sold almost half of its masts in Africa.