Qatar Telecom’s Indosat Said to Draw Three Bidders for 4,000 Cell Towers

PT Indosat, Indonesia’s second- largest mobile phone carrier, plans to sell about 4,000 cellular towers and has drawn interest from PT Tower Bersama Infrastructure, PT Solusi Tunas Pratama and PT Sarana Menara Nusantara, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

The sale may raise about $500 million, two people said, declining to be identified as the process is private. Jakarta- based Indosat may pick a preferred bidder for the towers as soon as in two weeks, one of the people said.

Indosat said in an April filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was “considering various options” for the tower business, which accounted for about 20 percent of revenue at its mobile-phone unit in the first half. Each tower would likely fetch more than $125,000 in a sale, one of the people said.

“In the near term, a towers sale could be a better solution given Indosat is currently not running the towers efficiently and it will be able to monetize the value from any sale,” said Sachin Mittal, a Singapore-based analyst at DBS Vickers Research. Mittal this week cut his rating on Indosat to “hold” from “buy,” citing reduced estimates for sales growth.

Indosat’s first-half profit jumped 138 percent from a year earlier to 681.9 billion rupiah, the company said last month. Revenue at the cellular-tower unit soared 112 percent, outpacing Indosat’s 4 percent overall sales growth.

Tower Cost

Each cell-phone tower costs about $100,000 to build, and the amount they’ll be worth in a sale depends on their location and tenancy, Mittal said. Revenue from leasing out towers accounted for 198 billion rupiah of Indosat’s 957 billion rupiah of mobile-phone sales in the first half, according to a statement last month.

“We are interested in acquiring any tower as a company or an asset,” said Tower Bersama Finance Director Helmi Yusman Santoso in a phone interview. He declined to comment on the Indosat deal. “We have allocated $120 million for capital expenditure this year, and some of it will be used for acquisitions,” Santoso said.

Investor Daily Indonesia in July cited Santoso as saying Tower Bersama planned to buy 4,000 towers from Indosat. The deal may be worth more than $500 million, according to the report.

Djarot Handoko, head of corporate communication at Indosat, didn’t respond to questions from Bloomberg News on the deal. Officials at Solusi Tunas Pratama and Sarana Menara Nusantara didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.

Indosat’s number of mobile-phone subscribers rose 25 percent from a year earlier to 47.3 million, the company said last month. Qatar Telecom QSC, the Persian Gulf country’s biggest company by revenue, controls 55.8 percent of Indosat and the Indonesian government owns 14.3 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company, led by Chief Executive Officer Harry Sasongko Tirtotjondro, was established by the government in 1967, according to its website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joyce Koh in Singapore at jkoh38@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Philip Lagerkranser at lagerkranser@bloomberg.net

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