Bharti Airtel agreed to sell mobile phone towers in Tanzania and Malawi to specialist players Helios Towers and Eaton Towers, according to Reuters.

Sources said around 1,000 towers in Tanzania will go to Helios, while an unknown number of assets in Malawi will be sold to Eaton Towers.

Alan Harper, the chief executive of Eaton, told Reuters that the deals have been signed but not yet closed, adding that it takes time for these kinds of transactions to progress.

Airtel previously agreed to sell 3,100 towers in four countries to Helios, on the back of which Helios raised $630 million in fresh funding.

Helios claims to be the leading tower player in Africa, with 7,800 towers across Ghana, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Airtel also agreed to sell a further 3,500 towers in six unnamed African countries to Eaton in September. Prior to the deals the Indian operator group owned a total of 15,000 towers on the continent.

There has been a trend of operators in Africa selling masts to specialist companies and leasing them back to cut maintenance costs in a region where electricity and transport infrastructure can be lacking.

Others operators to have taken this route include South Africa’s MTN, which sold 9,100 towers in Nigeria to a joint venture with IHS in September. The two companies conducted similar deals in Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Rwanda and Zambia.