Zain Kuwait, the country’s leading cellco by subscribers, has entered into definite agreements to sell and lease back the passive physical infrastructure of its mobile tower portfolio for USD165 million to IHS Holding in partnership with Towershare Management. The transaction will result in the formation of a new entity that will manage the passive tower assets – currently spanning 1,600 Kuwaiti sites – in which Zain will take a minority shareholding. The deal has been approved by Kuwait’s Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA), and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018, subject to other regulatory and statutory approvals.
Zain announced that the sale and leaseback tower strategy will optimise operational efficiencies and enable it to focus on its core business and customers while accelerating investment in cutting edge telecoms platforms to meet growing mobile data demand. Bader Al-Kharafi, Zain Group CEO, declared that the deal would ‘unlock value that can be more efficiently deployed in new technologies and higher yielding investments for Zain, and at the same time pave the way for further network expansion and tower infrastructure sharing in Kuwait.’
The transaction represents the first sale and leaseback of telecom towers in the Middle East region by a mobile operator, and creates ‘the first independent tower operator of scale’ in the region, a press release added. The newly formed entity will be responsible for maintaining and expanding Zain’s tower footprint across Kuwait.
IHS says it is the largest independent tower operator in Europe, Middle East and Africa by tower count, and the third largest independent multinational tower company globally.