ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
New US loan to expand Apollo Towers’ mobile push in rural Myanmar
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. government’s development finance institution, announced June 15 that it has commenced the initial disbursement of a US$250 million loan to Apollo Towers Myanmar Limited, based in Yangon.
The disbursement marks OPIC’s first financing in the country as well as what they claim is a historic milestone in public-private cooperation. Investors TPG Growth, Tillman Global Holdings, and Myanmar Investments International Limited facilitated the loan process and will continue to partner with Apollo on its expansion, according to a press release June 15.
The development of towers by Apollo Towers Myanmar Limited (Apollo) is said to have contributed to an increase in Myanmar’s mobile phone penetration rate from 5 percent to more than 75 percent in the last two years.
This new financing from OPIC will allow Apollo to continue to grow its tower network and provide voice and data coverage to many areas of the country for the first time. Apollo has built approximately 1,800 towers since commencing operations in 2014 and plans to build more than 2,000 additional towers in its next phase of development.
“OPIC is pleased to be working with Apollo on this first, important investment in Burma,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC President and CEO. “Telecommunications are a critical part of ongoing development across the world, and through this project, OPIC is looking to have a significant impact on those who previously lacked access to telecommunications coverage in the country.”
“Apollo has been able to capitalize on a buoyant demand for mobile and telecommunications services, working closely with global network operators such as Telenor and Ooredoo, as well as locally based Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). This watershed OPIC financing, a unique collaboration between the private and public sectors, helps expand the critical infrastructure needed to bring telecommunications services to a larger portion of the Myanmar population,” said Sanjiv Ahuja, Founder of Apollo and Founder and Chairman of Tillman Global Holdings.
“Apollo is leading the market in new tower construction, bringing cell phone and internet access to millions,” said Sanjay Banker, Partner at TPG Growth. “TPG is proud to back Apollo Towers and be part of bringing this essential service to the people of Myanmar. Apollo’s approach represents the kind of thoughtful, innovative development that we look for in frontier markets.”
TPG Growth’s 2014 investment in Apollo was TPG’s first investment in Myanmar, and the first in the country by a leading Western private equity firm. In 2015, TPG Capital Asia acquired a 50 percent stake in Myanmar Distillery Company (MDC), a top manufacturer, marketer, and distributor of spirits.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time in Myanmar, and there is tremendous opportunity for investment. The advantage Myanmar has in having a late start, in terms of building infrastructure, is that we can develop in a way that is smart, efficient, and in collaboration with the right partners,” said U Thura Ko Ko, Managing Director of Myanmar-based YGA Capital Limited and Senior Advisor to TPG.
“The American government’s OPIC is showing its support in a very practical way by assisting us to bring communication and information to millions of citizens across the country,” said Michael Dean, the Yangon-based Director of London-listed Myanmar Investments International Limited (MIL). “As a locally based investment group, we at MIL look forward to continuing to play a catalytic role between western capital and local business in developing socially responsible investments just as a new government takes the country into its next phase of growth.”
Apollo Towers Myanmar Ltd. is the leading telecommunications tower company in Myanmar. Apollo is a specialist in building and maintaining multi-tenant telecommunication towers, as well as providing and managing power solutions. Apollo currently provides services to all three licensed operators in Myanmar: Telenor of Norway, Ooredoo of Qatar, and Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications. As one of the earliest entrants in the local tower development market, Apollo has been able to secure very crucial and strategically valuable tower sites. The company offers an integrated tower and power solution, leveraging global suppliers to construct towers at industry-leading uptimes. Its superiorly positioned portfolio provides wireless operators coverage in key urban areas as well as along highway routes.
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