Omantel's towers attract three bidders for deal worth over $500mln - sources

The asset sale by the state-controlled company comes as Oman, a Gulf crude producer, seeks to raise cash after the coronavirus crisis and low oil prices hurt its finances

  
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Image used for illustrative purpose. Shot of an unrecognizable group of people social networking outside.

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DUBAI  - Oman Telecommunications (Omantel) has attracted three bidders in the second round of the sale of its tower network, in a deal that could be worth over $500 million, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The asset sale by the state-controlled company comes as Oman, a Gulf crude producer, seeks to raise cash after the coronavirus crisis and low oil prices hurt its finances.

Omani infrastructure fund Rakiza, which is backed by Oman's sovereign wealth fund, has partnered with Mauritius-headquartered telecoms group IHS Towers as a bidder, said the sources, declining to be named as the matter is not public.

Oman Towers, which leases telecom towers and other infrastructure to wireless telecommunication service operators in Oman, has also bid for the network, the sources said.

Helios Towers, a telecom tower infrastructure firm that operates in Sub-Saharan Africa and is listed in London, is another bidder, they said.

A response to the bids is expected this Thursday, both the sources said. One of them added that about 3,000 towers would be included in the transaction.

IHS declined to comment. Rakiza, Omantel, Oman Towers and Helios Towers did not immediately respond to queries for comment.

Telecoms operators are increasingly keen to dispose of towers which now provide little competitive edge due to broadly similar network quality and coverage. 

Telecom operator Zain Saudi Arabia sold 8,100 towers and related infrastructure to IHS Holding in 2018 in a deal worth 2.43 billion riyals ($647.7 million). Its Kuwait-listed parent company Zain Group this year sold 1,620 mobile towers to IHS for $130 million. 

Oman, rated sub-investment grade by all major credit rating agencies, faces a widening deficit and large debt maturities in the next few years. It has recently embarked on a new fiscal plan to wean itself off its dependence on crude revenues

(Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Jan Harvey) ((Hadeel.AlSayegh@thomsonreuters.com; +971566883310;))

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