Monday, 12 May 2014

Wireless towers in Myanmar an investment opportunity

Tower companies are playing a key role in the rollout of foreign-built wireless networks in Myanmar.

As Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo rush to roll out wireless networks in the country with the lowest mobile penetration in Asia, tower companies are a key part of the plan – and drawing investment in their own right.

Instead of building towers itself, Telenor has inked deals with Singapore-based Apollo, as well as a joint venture between India-based Quippo Telecom Infrastructure and Golden Towers, a company linked to Dubai-based private equity firm Alcazar Capital. Qatar’s Ooredoo, the other foreign operator in Myanmar, has a similar arrangement with Jamaica-based Digicel.

“The business has evolved, primarily coming out of India and what you saw in the United States also, where towers were viewed as assets,” Petter Furberg, the CEO of Telenor’s Myanmar branch, said in an exclusive interview with Monitor Global Outlook. “Here you have a golden opportunity to actually invest in [towers] from the beginning.”

It’s a far cry from 1996, Furberg notes, when Telenor invested in a mobile network in Bangladesh and built all the infrastructure. Nearly two decades later, “we’re running a business model much more focused on outsourcing,” he said. Ericsson and China’s Huawei, for example, will be the company’s network vendors.

“With the business model now, you can of course invest in Myanmar through Telenor stock and you can invest in the other parts of the value chain that is being created,” he said.

Furberg notes that in neighboring Thailand, some towns have three different wireless towers for three different companies. But in Myamar Telenor and Ooredoo, as well as the country’s two state-owned providers, are supporting tower-sharing and will be in some cases renting the same towers from tower companies, which helps them save money on steel and maintenance.

Bloomberg recently reported that Apollo has drawn private equity funding from San Francisco-based TPG Growth.

source: Monitor Global Outlook
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