ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
XL Axiata sells 2,500 towers to settle debt
Telecommunication company PT XL Axiata on Tuesday signed an agreement to sell 2,500 of its broadcast towers to tower provider PT Professional Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Protelindo) for Rp 3.5 trillion (US$267.2 million) in an effort to pay off some of the company’s debt.
XL Axiata finance director Mohamed Adlan bin Ahmad Tajudin explained that the sale of the towers was part of the company’s strategy to reduce its total debt, which stands at Rp 26.9 trillion and is due in 2020.
“The sale of these towers is not only to help us cut our rupiah debt, but is also in line with our 3R strategy, which is revamp, rise and reinvent, that we have implemented since last year,” he said on Tuesday.
XL Axiata has been aggressively reducing its exposure to currency risk by advancing foreign-denominated debt repayment as well as converting outstanding obligations into rupiah.
Currency costs began to pinch XL Axiata’s performance after it acquired Axis Telekom Indonesia in 2014. The acquisition drove up operational costs and caused ballooning debt to fund the acquisition.
The company’s net foreign losses tripled from Rp 1.06 trillion in the first nine months of 2014 to Rp 3.03 trillion in the corresponding period last year.
Earlier this year, the company announced that it was selling its towers through an open bidding process to reduce its debt.
Eight companies had expressed their interest in buying the towers, with Protelindo eventually named as the winner for the deal, which is expected to be concluded by June.
XL Axiata used to possess 10,000 broadcast towers across the archipelago, before selling off 3,500 in 2014 to tower company PT Solusi Tunas Pratama for Rp 5.6 trillion.
After the anticipated release of another 2,500 towers to Protelindo, Adlan said XL Axiata had no plans to put its remaining 4,000 towers up for sale, seeking to avoid disruption in the company’s network coverage and services.
“Hopefully, with the sale of these 2,500 towers, XL’s financial state will become slightly better,” he said.
Despite the change in towers ownership, XL Axiata will still rent 2,432 of its formerly owned towers from Protelindo in order to maintain its network strength, at a lease of Rp 10 million per month per tower for the next 10 years.
XL Axiata’s recently green-lighted a preemptive rights issue to help pay off a $500 million loan provided by its parent company Axiata when the former acquired Axis from Saudi Telecom Company (STC), previously the majority shareholder in Axis, for $865 million.
The remaining funds for the acquisition were provided by three banks, namely UOB, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi and DBS.
The value of this preemptive rights issue will likely be announced in April or May.
Meanwhile, Adlan revealed that XL planned to spend up to Rp 7 trillion to improve its network coverage and expand its 4G network this year.
XL’s 4G network coverage is currently available in 36 cities nationwide, with the company targeting to serve up to 85 cities by the end of this year.
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