Wednesday, 12 September 2012

August 2012 Africa telecoms investment

August was a relatively slow month in African telecoms investment, with $428Mn of new money committed to upgrades. 3 of the big 4 markets took new investments, with only South Africa announcement-free. Non-M&A investments for the year now stand at a touch under $8.5Bn, on track for my forecast for the year of $13.5Mn.

For reference, investments announced in August 2011 totalled nearly $1.9Bn, driven by massive commitments in Nigeria and South Africa. 2010 netted a more subdued $80Mn and August 2009 yielded $300Mn.

In truth, there's little of major import to report as this month's two most interesting announcements have yet to mature into concrete commitments. In Morocco, the goverment unveiled its 10 year plan to modernise the country's obselete broadband market. This exciting plan includes a national fibre backbone in combination with DSL and LTE last miles to bring developed market connectivity to 32 million people.

In South Africa, MTN is looking at selling off 3,000 of its 6,000 cellular towers. By my calculations, this sale and lease back deal would realise around $400Mn for MTN - a substantial sum that will doubtless go a long way to furthering its ambitions to expand into other African markets.

In regulation, Kenya continues to frustrate with President Kibaki blocking regulator CCK's reduction of mobile termination rates for the second time. This policy - seemingly designed to support struggling incumbent Telkom Kenya - is profoundly bad for the telecoms market, which needs lower call prices to support consumer spending on data products and higher call volumes. It also lowers investor confidence, which seems to be an actual aim of the current government in Nairobi.

Better news in Ghana where operators have agreed to share ducts with each other, enabling faster, cheaper roll out of fibre backhaul systems in urban areas. Yet another example of how Kenya is falling behind its regional competitors. A change of government in March seems to be their only hope of regaining lost ground.

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