The debt financing package will reportedly comprise $150 million direct investment from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and a further $44 million from its Managed Co-Lending Portfolio Program (MCPP)
Bharti Airtel’s African unit is having something of a resurgence in recent years.
Back in the summer of 2019, Airtel Africa’s initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange was something of a disaster, raising just $750 million and seeing stock prices fall over 16% on day one.
At the time, investors were sceptical about the prospects of telecom carriers in emerging markets, fears that were borne out over the next couple of years when profit fell in almost every quarter the following year. However, 2020 saw the unit stage a turnaround, posting a 72% jump in pre-tax profit and seeing subscribers throughout the continent surge. This turnaround came, in no small part, due to a strategic shift from the business, looking to consolidate and monetise its passive assets, as well as benefiting from the strong performance of its mobile money platform.
Last year, Mastercard announced that it would invest $100 million in Airtel Africa’s mobile money operations, valuing the business at $2.65 billion. In the same year, Airtel also agreed to sell a 7.5% stake in the unit to Qatar Holding LLC, an affiliate of Qatar Investment Authority, for around $200 million. As part of Airtel’s broader plan to reduce its roughly $4 billion in debt, Airtel Africa has been selling its mobile towers across the continent to various investors.
At the start of the year, the company closed a deal worth $176 million, selling its towers in Tanzania to a joint venture from SBA Communications Corp and Paradigm Infrastructure Ltd. It also has plans to sell its towers in both Chad and Gabon to Helios Towers, but the closure of this deal has been delayed due to Helios waiting to obtain the relevant passive infrastructure licence; the Memorandum of Understanding for the sale was first signed in February last year and was renewed last month.
Now, the company is seeking to raise an additional $194 million for capex purposes from the IFC, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank. “IFC will support the (Airtel Africa) project with a debt package of up to $150 million from its own account and up to $44 million in mobilisation from MCPP funds,” said the IFC in a statement.
The funding will support ongoing network investment and loan restructuring in Kenya, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Niger, Republic of Congo, and Zambia. The company currently has over 100 million customers in 14 African markets.