Zain Saudi Arabia (Zain KSA) has signed a SAR2.43 billion ($648 million) agreement with investment firm IHS Holding to sell and lease back its 8,100 towers.
The operator stated that it is “selling only its passive, physical infrastructure to IHS and will retain its intelligent software, technology and intellectual property with respect to managing its network”. The agreement also involves a lease back period of 15 years, with a 5-year renewal option and building of an additional 1500 towers over next 6 years.
Zain Group CEO and vice chairman of Zain KSA Bader Al Kharafi noted that the operator plans to use the proceeds to reduce its debt, saying that the agreement “creates shareholder value by helping the company reduce its debt position, as the proceeds will be used to reduce the company’s Murabaha facility”.
The deal unlocks capital and resources, allowing the operator to focus on its core operations and further invest in and deliver ICT technologies to meet the increasing demand for reliable broadband access and data consumption.
Zain KSA, which is 37% owned by Kuwait’s Zain Group, has been looking into divesting its towers since January 2015, according to Reuters. A $500 million deal to sell 7500 of its towers to Lebanon’s TASC Towers was tabled in 2017, but never closed.
However, in Q3 of the same year Zain Kuwait sign a sale and leaseback agreement with IHS for $165 million, making this deal something of a consolidatory move that will create the first independent tower company of scale in the region.
The Saudi deal will require approval from the Kingdom’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) and lenders.