Saudi Telecom Said to Weigh Sale or Merger of Tower Network

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A woman checks her phone at a flower shop in Riyadh.

Photographer: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images
  • The phone operator has reached out to potential bidders
  • Company also approached Mobily, Zain with plan to merge assets

Saudi Telecom Co. has approached potential bidders for its phone towers as the kingdom’s biggest telecommunications operator weighs options for the infrastructure assets, people familiar with the matter said.

The company has also spoken to competitors Etihad Etisalat Co. and Zain Saudi Arabia about merging the three firms’ towers into a single entity, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. Saudi Telecom has not made a final decision on which process it plans to pursue, and no agreements have been reached with any of the parties, the people said.

Spokesmen for Saudi Telecom, Etihad Etisalat and Zain Saudi didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Saudi Telecom shares rose 0.4 percent to 64.50 riyals in Tadawul trading at 1:13 p.m. Mobily rose 0.4 percent to 27.70 riyals. Zain Saudi gained 3.3 percent to 8.40 riyals.

Carriers are selling towers to reduce exposure to costly infrastructure. Saudi Telecom Chief Executive Officer Khaled Bin Hussain Biyari said in a May interview that he was “seriously considering” selling the assets to make the company more efficient. Etihad Etisalat, known as Mobily, abandoned its own tower sale as a result of its larger rival’s plans, people familiar with the matter said last month.

Zain Saudi is also weighing options for its approximately 7,500 towers in the kingdom, including selling them or working with competitors to create one company to manage the assets, Chief Executive Officer Hassan Kabbani said earlier in the year. Saudi Telecom owns more than 10,000 towers in the country, one person said.

The Maaal news website reported the talks to combine the three companies’ mobile assets in February.

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