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American Tower Buys Bharti’s Nigerian Telecom Towers for $1 Billion

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Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio to share infrastructure
Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio to share infrastructure

NEW DELHI— Bharti Airtel Ltd , India’s biggest telecommunications company, has agreed to sell its telecommunications towers in Nigeria to American Tower Corp. for $1.05 billion.

The move will help the Indian group reduce its heavy debt while significantly expanding American Tower’s presence in Africa, marking its first entry into Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country.

Bharti Airtel International Netherlands B.V., the holding company of Bharti Airtel’s African operations, will sell 4,800 towers and then lease them back from American Tower for 10 years, the two companies said in a joint statement on Monday.

American Tower in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the U.S. on Monday said the total consideration for the deal is expected to be $1.05 billion.

“The agreement will allow Airtel to focus on its core business and customers, enable it to deleverage through debt reduction and will significantly reduce its on‐going capital expenditures on passive infrastructure in Nigeria,” Bharti said in a statement released to a stock exchange in Mumbai late Monday.

Nigeria is the biggest market within Bharti’s African operations.

Boston., MA-based American Tower Corp. is an independent telecommunications and broadcast real-estate company which owns, operates and develops about 70,000 towers for cellphone companies and television stations. This deal will mark American Tower’s first foray into Nigeria. It already has operations in Ghana, South Africa and Uganda.

Bharti and American Tower expect to close the transaction during the first half of 2015, subject to regulatory approvals, the company’s joint statement said.

Bharti’s profits have been under pressure since 2010 because of high interest costs on the loans it took to buy the African operations of Mobile Telecommunications Co.

The New Delhi-based company—which is about 32%-owned by SingTel –has been selling stakes in itself and its unit to pay off some of those loans.

In July, it had agreed to sell 3,000 telecom towers to Helios Towers Africa for an undisclosed amount. Later in September, it signed sale-and-leaseback agreements for about 3,500 towers to Eaton Towers Ltd.

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