By Hadeel Al Sayegh
DUBAI, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Qatari telecoms company Ooredoo is preparing for a sale of 20,000 of its towers, it said on Monday, with sources close to the matter saying it has engaged Morgan Stanley to work on the deal.
Ooredoo is looking to sell towers in the Gulf region and other markets including Iraq and Algeria through a sale-and-leaseback arrangement, the sources said.
Reuters had reported on Sept. 15 that the group was considering a sale of its tower network.
In a bourse statement on Monday, Ooredoo said it is "preparing for a potential carve out of its tower portfolio to extract optimal value for its infrastructure".
The statement did not elaborate on the plans and the company declined to comment further while Morgan Stanley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The transaction is at the second stage of bidding, which is expected to be followed by binding bids from investors, the sources said.
Ooredoo might package the deal in more than one bundle to separate investors because it could be difficult to find one buyer for the entire portfolio owing to the nature of the markets and their respective risk premiums.
There have been several such sales in recent years as telecoms companies seek to reduce debt and costs.
Deutsche Telekom in March started the sale of its towers operation, sources told Reuters, in a deal that could value the business at close to 18 billion euros ($17.4 billion).
Gulf region carriers have also been divesting from tower assets to reduce infrastructure costs and focus on information and communications technology, with such deals attracting specialised tower operators looking to enter new, high-growth markets.
Omantel in 2021 sold 2,890 towers to Helios Towers for $575 million, Saudi Telecom, spun off its 15,000-plus towers into a subsidiary called Tawal in 2019 and Zain sold 1,620 telecoms towers to IHS Holding for $130 million in 2020. ($1 = 1.0363 euros) (Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh Editing by David Goodman)