Mobile operator de-coupling its hardware from its brain-ware
Airtel Africa, one of the continent’s biggest telcos, is separating its fibre-network operations into a new unit before looking for investors, its CEO Segun Ogunsanya has told Bloomberg.
The carrier, listed in Lagos and London, has received ‘expressions of interest’ in its 65,000 kilometer (40,000 miles) fibre-optic connections but, the CEO told Bloomberg News, he hasn’t yet evaluated them as Airtel wants to keep the lion’s share of the unit in any potential transaction.
Put all the infrastructure in one bucket, that’s Airtel’s plan, Ogunsanya said: “Once we are able to legally put all this under one structure, then we begin to explore the options to monetise.”
Airtel is on trend according to Bloomberg because telcos the world over are selling their property to investors who are playing it safe in the property market and investing in the prospect of long-term rental income from masts. Meanwhile telcos like Airtel need cash now to fund the building of 5G’s infrastructure which offers a very slim chance of instant gratification.
Airtel has 125 million customers in 14 sub-Saharan markets. Ogunsanya took over in October after previously heading up the Nigeria division. He was part of the team that took the firm public in 2019 after a split from India’s Bharti Airtel. Airtel’s fastest-growing division is Airtel Money, a mobile-finance service. Fintech businesses are booming in Africa due to the large number of people who have smartphones but no bank accounts.