Zain Saudi Arabia came closer to completing a sale of its 8,069 mobile towers to local investors in a deal worth SAR3 billion ($800 million), ending a somewhat protracted process to cash in passive assets to help fund network and technology upgrades.

The operator accepted offers in 2021 from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and two other investors to sell stakes totalling 80 per cent of its towers. Zain stated its board had now approved the final offers from the trio, although it noted they are still subject to regulatory approval.

As previously announced, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) is acquiring a 60 per cent stake in the Saudi towers unit, while Prince Saud Bin Fahad and Sultan Holding Company are each taking 10 per cent stakes.

Zain will retain a 20 per cent stake for now, but explained PIF’s final offer includes a call option on the remaining stake.

The operator is 37 per cent-owned by Kuwait-based Zain Group and has reportedly been exploring the sale of its towers since January 2015.

Zain’s Saudi unit had agreed a sale-and-leaseback deal for the towers with IHS Holding in 2018, but cancelled after the company failed to satisfy all regulatory requirements.

In 2017, Zain was reportedly close to reaching an agreement to sell around 7,500  towers to Lebanon-based TASC Towers for $500 million, but the deal never materialised.

Bader Al Kharafi, Zain Group CEO and vice chairman of Zain KSA (pictured), stated previously the company wanted to unlock value from its fixed infrastructure, “which can be more efficiently deployed in new technologies and higher yielding investments”.

The group has also agreed deals involving 2,607 towers in Jordan to UAE-based infrastructure company TASC Towers in an $88 million deal, and in late 2021 began due diligence on a $1.3 billion offer for its mobile and ICT managed services businesses in Sudan from a subsidiary of local conglomerate Dal Group.