Bharti Airtel is no longer selling its telecom towers in Tanzania and Chad to Helios Towers Africa, a move that will likely hinder its efforts to reduce debt and ongoing capital expenditure on infrastructure in African markets.
In a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Airtel said that “agreements for sale of tower assets in Tanzania and Tchad have lapsed and therefore stands terminated” but didn’t give any reasons. The statement was reported by the Economic Times.
The sale in the two countries was part of a bigger plan to divest 3,100 of its 15,000 towers in four African countries (the other two are Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo) to Helios in a deal worth $400 million.
One source said the deal fell through because it “couldn’t be tied up within a timeframe” and hence lapsed but is “on for the other two countries”.
The deal was made in July last year, following which Helios had pulled in $630 million of funding from financial backers.
Airtel owns 15,000 towers in Africa and other than the sale to Helios has signed deals to sell 9,400 of them to IHS, Eaton and American Tower Corp according to which it would have access to the towers under a long-term lease contract.
A report last year said the cost of the infrastructure had been weighing on the company’s results, with its African unit yet to make a profit, adding that because the tower portfolio is spread across so many African countries with different regulations it is difficult to sell the entire stake to one company.