Apollo Towers

Apollo, as one of the country’s largest telecom tower companies, is benefitting from the rapid expansion of the telecom sector in Myanmar

Overview

  • A leading telecommunication infrastructure company managing ~15% of Myanmar’s telecom towers.
  • Strong EBITDA growth from increasing demand for telecom towers.
  • Telecom is experiencing rapid growth in Myanmar with strong demand for capacity expansion – for Apollo this means building more towers or adding more tenants to existing ones.
  • Solid financial backing by global private equity power house TPG Growth and the United States’ Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
  • With an impressive management team in place, Apollo is uniquely positioned to benefit from the re-emergence of Myanmar.
  • The impending reorganization will see Apollo coming under common ownership with Pan Asia Towers to form the largest portfolio of towers in Myanmar.

 APOLLO TOWERS PTE LTD

Invested: US$21 million
Date of initial investment: 29 July 2015
Effective interest held by MIL: 9.0%

Business attraction / Investment thesis

Independent telecom tower companies (“ITC”s) build, own, and maintain telecommunication towers and power infrastructure where they then lease spaces on the towers to Mobile Network Operators (“MNO”s)and Internet Service Providers (“ISP”s). This creates an infrastructure sharing model that allows network operators to dramatically reduce capital expenditure, while the ITCs can maximize profits by leasing spaces to multiple customers. The profitability of each tower is secured by an “anchor tenant” with every additional “co-tenant” adding revenue that flows almost directly to the EBITDA.

Tenancy rates in Myanmar are widely expected to exceed every other market in the region as the initial tower roll out is uniquely being led by ITCs, rather than MNOs as has been the case in all other markets, and supported by proximity regulations that limit duplicate towers in a district. This separation between ITCs and MNOs is unique to Myanmar and provides much higher efficiency. Scarce capital and the need for a large tower portfolio to gain economies of scale make Myanmar a very attractive market for a well-financed and well-managed ITC.

Company Background

In 2013, facing one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in the world, Myanmar’s government tendered two MNO licenses to foreign companies – Telenor and Ooredoo. Since commencing operations in the summer of 2014, the two MNOs, together with the incumbent MNO MPT, drove mobile penetration from less than 10% to 75%+ by 2017.

Apollo was established in 2013, with the goal of becoming Myanmar’s leading provider of telecommunication infrastructure. Apollo was founded by Sanjiv Ahuja, the former CEO of Orange S.A. and founder of several successful telecom businesses across the globe, and TPG Growth, the middle market and growth equity investment platform of TPG.

By building and managing telecom tower infrastructure, Apollo is connecting the vast and fragmented Myanmar. Prior to Apollo’s start, only 1,800 towers connected Myanmar’s population to mobile telephony. However, to meet the MNO targets of countrywide coverage within the next few years, Myanmar will need up to 30,000 towers. Apollo is well-positioned to construct and manage a considerable share of this.

Investment

MIL led a syndicated US$30 million equity investment into Apollo in July 2015 of which US$20 million was from MIL’s own balance sheet. The investment was made through a subsidiary, MIL 4 Limited (“MIL 4”), of which MIL owns 66.7%. LIM Asia Special Situations Master Fund Limited owns 32.7% of MIL 4 and an unconnected third-party owns the remaining 0.7%. MIL 4’s ownership in Apollo is 13.5% providing MIL with a 9.0% ownership stake in Apollo.

In September 2018 MIL announced that its fellow Apollo shareholder, TPG, had acquired Pan Asia Towers, the 4thlargest ITC through a new holding company Tower (M) Holdings Pte. Ltd. (“Tower Holdings”). Following on from this, MIL 4 will exchange its shares in Apollo for shares in Tower Holdingsas part of a reorganization under which Apollo will also come under the ownership of Tower Holdings. In return, MIL 4 will acquire approximately 6.2% in Tower Holdings, of which approximately 4.2% will be attributable to MIL.

Performance to date

Since MIL’s investment, Apollo has nearly doubled its tower portfolio to 1,800 towers and secured a US$250 million loan facility from the United States’ Overseas Private Investment Corporation that could expand the company’s portfolio by an additional 2,000 towers over the next few years. Apollo already has long-term service contracts with all the country’s MNOs and has significantly increased the number of co-tenants especially with the entry of Myanmar’s new operator, MyTel, as well as further upside from the country’s multiple ISPs.

By contributing MIL’s investment in Apollo into Tower Holdings under common ownership with Pan Asia Holdings, the two businesses are expected to manage Myanmar’s largest portfolio of towers, with stronger growth prospects and economies of scale to operate more efficiently. It is considered that having the two businesses under common ownership would make a suitable candidate for strategic investors or a listing on one of the region’s stock exchanges over the next three to five years.

More information can be found on Apollo’s website at http://apollo-towers.com.