India’s Bharti Airtel today announced the sale of tower assets in five African countries for $1.3 billion, which it said will be used to reduce debt.

The company also confirmed it is in the process of further divestment in six other countries, as part of its previously announced intentions to divest tower assets in 13 African countries.

In a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Airtel said: “We have completed the sale transactions in five countries, while in two, the agreements have lapsed. For the balance six countries, the process is on and we hope to have finality in the coming few months on the transactions processed.”

Airtel initially owned 15,000 mobile towers across the continent, where it operates in 17 countries, but began to offload the infrastructure, as part of a growing trend amongst African operators to sell masts to specialist companies and lease them back to cut costs.

In November, Airtel agreed to sell its phone towers in Tanzania and Malawi to Helios Towers and Eaton Towers. It also offloaded 4,800 masts in Nigeria to American Tower in the same month.

Most recently, Airtel sold 1,100 towers in Zambia and Rwanda.