Saudi Arabian operator Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) has reportedly issued a tender for advisory services to look at strategic options for the operator’s towers portfolio, TMT Finance reports. According to unnamed people familiar with the matter, Mobily issued the tender earlier this year and bids were understood to have been submitted last week. It is unclear what type of deal Mobily is looking for, but a leaseback transaction could be on the cards, as could a joint venture or an infrastructure spin-off, the sources said.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, during 2011 STC and Mobily were said to be finalising the details of a scheme to merge their respective cell tower businesses in order to save on infrastructure costs. STC owns and operates around 11,000 towers, whilst Mobily has around 3,500. It was reported that the pair were considering selling off a large stake (around 49%) in the projected USD2.5 billion joint venture once the deal was finalised; completion was originally expected before end-2011, but talks appear to have stalled.
The new development comes hot on the heels of claims that the operator has hired HSBC as adviser after breaching a covenant on about USD2.7 billion of debt, according to Bloomberg. As reported by CommsUpdate earlier this week, the telco revised its unaudited annual financial results for the twelve months ended December 2014, by restating its previously announced net loss of SAR220 million (USD58.6 million) for the period to SAR913 million, due to ‘an additional charge of SAR1.13 billion’. Following the announcement, the Capital Market Authority (CMA) suspended the trading of Mobily’s shares on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), with the ban to remain in place until Mobily explains the reasons which led to its net losses.