American Tower Is Said to Eye MTN’s South African Assets

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest wireless carrier, has received interest from American Tower Corp. for at least a part of the network of about 9,000 towers it’s selling in South Africa, according to people familiar with the matter.

The assets are valued at $1.5 billion to $2 billion, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Johannesburg-based MTN has been holding talks with potential buyers, though a deal is unlikely to happen before the end of the year, the people said. MTN may decide to keep a part of the assets, they said.

Tower sales help companies like MTN raise cash from their antenna properties by giving tower operators the ability to rent space on cell sites to other carriers. American Tower has been on a buying spree with three acquisitions announced in the past five months, including a deal in Nigeria.

Chris Maroleng, an MTN spokesman, declined to comment, as did Matt Peterson, a spokesman for Boston-based American Tower.

MTN shares fell 0.9 percent to close at 216.10 rand in Johannesburg. American Tower slipped 4 cents to $94.53 at 12:02 p.m. in New York.

In November, American Tower struck a $1.05 billion deal with Bharti Airtel Ltd. for 4,800 towers in Nigeria. American Tower’s competitors in Africa include IHS Holding Ltd. and Helios Towers Africa, which also have expanded through acquisitions.

American Tower has also grown in the Americas, agreeing to buy 6,480 antenna sites in Brazil from Tim Participacoes SA in November. Last month, American Tower agreed to acquire the rights to more than 11,000 wireless towers for $5 billion from Verizon Communications Inc.

MTN has been in talks with South African fixed-line operator Telkom SA SOC Ltd. for a year about a radio-network agreement and also sold a stake in its Nigerian tower business for $1.8 billion in September.

Source: Bloomberg 11 March 2015