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MTS plans tower asset sale, CEO tells Kommersant

Russia’s biggest mobile operator MTS may sell its tower assets, Chief Executive Vyacheslav Nikolaev told the Kommersant daily published on Tuesday, following an industry-wide trend of telecoms firms cashing in on the money-making power of masts.

“The process of separating tower assets into a separate company is underway, after which a sale is possible,” Nikolaev said, adding that MTS would have about 23,000 towers by the end of 2021, about 30% more than the nearest competitor.

Rival telecoms operator Veon, whose primary market is Russia, told Reuters last month it was shifting its focus to high-margin digital businesses after agreeing to sell its Russian tower assets for $970 million.

Independent tower companies are keen to access the steady, inflation-linked returns antenna-topped towers generate. Other telecoms players have sought to create separate tower units as a way of keeping a chunk of potential future growth.

Nikolaev, who said negotiations for the sale were underway, said MTS had other priorities beyond just telecoms.

MTS is one of several Russian companies developing services beyond its core business, including MTS Bank, e-commerce and streaming service KION.

MTS is also preparing changes to its dividend policy, Nikolaev said, with several different options under discussion.

“The most appropriate, in our view, is a scenario in which we will pay more often than twice a year and on the whole no less than under the previous policy,” he said.

The company in July said it planned to pay a first-half 2021 dividend of 10.55 roubles per ordinary share, paying a total of 21.08 billion roubles ($290 million) in interim dividends. Reuters

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