African tower market sees consolidation

American Tower inked a deal to acquire Eaton Towers, which owns and operates around 5,500 sites across five African markets, in a $1.85 billion deal.

The US company already has a global portfolio of more than 170,000 sites, including around 41,000 in its home market and 130,000 worlwide. In Africa, it has a presence in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana and South Africa.

Eaton Towers said it is the only infrastructure company in Niger and Burkina Faso. It also claims to be the largest player (by number of towers) in Kenya and second-largest in Uganda and Ghana, meaning there is significant regional overlap with the American Tower portfolio.

Jim Taiclet, American Tower CEO, said: “This transaction will significantly augment our existing footprint in Africa and positions ATC to take even better advantage of the growth opportunity in the region as 4G mobile data technology is deployed to serve millions of Africans over the coming years.”

The acquired assets are expected to generate around $260 million in property revenue and around $165 million in gross revenue, at current exchange rates, in their first full year in the American Tower portfolio.

Early days
Christian Skaanild, director representing Eaton Towers’ majority shareholder Capital Group Private Markets, said: “We are proud of what has been achieved since we made our first investment in Eaton Towers in 2011, when the African telecom towers industry was at a very nascent stage. Since then our investment has contributed to improved coverage and capacity delivering voice and data access for consumers.”

Financial Times reported Eaton Towers was due to list in 2018, but pulled its IPO. It was noted that this may have brought forward bidders for an acquisition.

Another African towers business, Helios Towers, also pulled plans for a float in 2018. Also active in the region is IHS Towers.

The deal sees American Tower taking on existing Eaton Towers debt, which is included in the $1.85 billion figure. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2019, subject to closing conditions and regulatory approval.


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