Digital Bridge Said to Be a Lead Bidder in Mobily Tower Sale

  • Saudi Arabian mobile towers could fetch as much as $2 billion
  • Infrastructure firm is also bidding for Zain's Kuwait towers

Digital Bridge Holdings is among the leading bidders for Etihad Etisalat Co.’s portfolio of wireless towers in Saudi Arabia, a sale that could fetch as much as $2 billion, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Digital Bridge’s bid is backed by state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Aramco, and emerging markets-focused buyout firm Abraaj Group, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. Etihad Etisalat, which operates under the Mobily brand, and Digital Bridge haven’t reached a final agreement on the sale, the people said.

Digital Bridge, which invests in communications infrastructure, such as phone and broadcast towers, is also among bidders for the tower network owned by Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co., known as Zain, the people said.

A spokesman for Mobily said that the company is assessing different options and that no decision has been made. Abraaj and Aramco declined to comment. Representatives for Zain and Digital Bridge didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mobily’s shares rose 9.9 percent to 24.70 riyals at 2:52 p.m. in Riyadh.

Tower operator IHS Group Holdings Ltd., private equity company Providence Equity Partners Inc. and family-owned firms Al Rajhi Group and Al Zamil Group were previously chosen to bid for the assets, people familiar with the matter have said.

Mobily, which is 27 percent owned by Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Telecommunications Group, is recovering from accounting irregularities discovered more than a year ago, which cost the company its chief executive officer and billions in market value. The company’s shares have fallen more than 50 percent since the day before the Saudi market regulator’s accounting probe was announced in November 2014.

The company reported its first quarterly profit in the fourth-quarter after four consecutive losses.

Digital Bridge was formed in 2013 through a partnership between Ben Jenkins, a former Blackstone Group LP executive and founder of investment firm Dering Capital, and Marc Ganzi, according to the company’s website. Ganzi was previously CEO of tower firm Global Tower Partners, which was sold to American Tower Corp. in 2013.

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