Africa-focused telecoms infrastructure specialist Helios Towers has expanded to the Middle East with the acquisition of 2,890 sites from Omantel.
Helios has a presence in ten African countries, with a total of 7,356 sites, so this acquisition not only represents a geographical expansion, but a significant increase in its portfolio. The nearly three thousand sites in Oman will set Helios back $575 million, which says they will deliver revenues $59 million in the first full year of operation.
“We look forward to supporting Omantel’s growth, and that of the wider Omani mobile market, through our delivery of customer service excellence and world-class infrastructure solutions and services,” said Helios CEO Kash Pandya. “We view Oman as a very attractive and supportive market for foreign investments, with strong growth and exciting future prospects.
“Through the acquisition, which establishes us as a leading tower operator in Oman, we expect to achieve our Group target of 12,000+ towers well ahead of plan, while also strengthening our business through further hard-currency revenues and diversification into one of the fastest growing markets in the Middle-East.
“The sale of our passive tower infrastructure is in line with our strategy to develop world class asset light, strategic and advanced communications networks in Oman and to generate the greatest value and efficiency for the benefit of our shareholders, customers and partners,” said Omantel CEO Talal Said Al Mamari.
“This move also allows the monetization of our towers at attractive valuation levels, de-lever our balance sheet and will accelerate network development in next generation advanced technologies while enabling management to focus on innovation and product development while outsourcing non-core infrastructure management to a world-class infrastructure management firm – Helios Towers.”
This is just the latest in a macro trend of operators flogging as much of their infrastructure as possible to third parties and then renting it back. The ‘asset light’ strategy is not a new one and is often a euphemism for raising working capital by selling the family silver. Nonetheless Omantel is hardly the first to take this route and almost certainly won’t be the last.