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France’s Orange is said to weigh options for African Towers

Orange SA is considering strategic options for its African and Middle Eastern mobile towers business, including stake sales, according to people familiar with the matter.

The French phone company, which operates in 18 countries across the region, could also carve out the assets into units based on geography, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. Orange is studying a range of options, including selling the towers by country, offloading the portfolio as a whole, sharing towers with other operators or holding an initial public offering, they said.

The assets could be valued at about $1 billion, according to the people familiar with the matter, depending on the location and condition of the towers. Wireless carriers globally have been carving out and selling stakes in their infrastructure businesses as a way to free up capital and share the burden of network buildouts with investors.

While Orange has discussed the proposal with potential advisers, the talks are at an early stage and no final decisions have been made. The African tower portfolio under review is separate from Orange’s mobile-mast company Totem, which it created last year.

MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest phone company, recently completed a sale-and-lease back deal for about 5,700 of its South African towers for 6.4 billion rand ($360 million). Meanwhile, independent tower companies, such as American Towers, IHS Holdings and Helios Towers, have been keen to pick up the assets.

Orange’s Chief Executive Officer Christel Heydemann, who joined last year, plans to announce a new strategic plan for France’s biggest phone company this month. Bloomberg

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