Eastcastle Infrastructure, a newly-formed towers developer in Africa, today received $130m in equity funding from African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM), an infrastructure private equity firm in Africa, Adenia Partners, a private equity firm in Africa, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group. Specifically, Eastcastle Infrastructure will use the $130m of equity to fund the company’s build-to-suit (BTS) towers strategy in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Ivory Coast.

As part Eastcastle Infrastructure’s equity raise, the consortium of AIIM, Adenia, and IFC will own 95.8% of the company. In particular, AIIM will own 37.9%, Adenia will control 37.9%, IFC will hold 20%, and founders Peter Lewis and Pankaj Kulshrestha will keep the remaining 4.2%.

Eastcastle Infrastructure – Overview

Eastcastle Infrastructure was established in 2020 by Peter Lewis and Pankaj Kulshrestha, the former CFO and COO, respectively of Eaton Towers.

The Eastcastle Infrastructure team has prior experience in structuring and completing 14 tower acquisitions and disposals in Africa. Most recently, the team sold Eaton Towers’ portfolio in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Niger, and Burkina Faso to American Tower for $1.85bn in 2019.

Management indicates that it will target its existing wireless carrier relationships for build-to-suit (BTS) agreements. As a reference point, Eaton Towers’ largest tenant relationships were Airtel, Orange, MTN, and Vodafone.

Initial Tower Markets – Eastcastle Infrastructure

Initially, Eastcastle Infrastructure will pursue build-to-suit (BTS) tower opportunities in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Ivory Coast. Specifically, the company intends to build 1,950 towers in these three countries, with a total project cost of $239m. Indeed, this equates to a cost-to-build of $122.6k per tower.

Country-by-Country Plan

Eastcastle Infrastructure plans to build 1,950 towers in the following three markets:

  • Nigeria: 700 towers
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: 750 towers
  • Ivory Coast: 500 towers

Comparison to Eaton Towers

Notably, none of these three initial markets are in countries where Eaton Towers sold sites to American Tower. Eastcastle Infrastructure’s initial choice of markets could indicate that its management team still has a non-compete agreement with American Tower in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Niger, and Burkina Faso for a certain period of time.

Tower Market Details

Below are details on the wireless carriers and tower markets in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Ivory Coast.

Nigeria

In Nigeria, the main wireless carriers are MTN, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile. Overall, the country has 32k towers with IHS Towers, American Tower, and Pan African Towers being the largest owners.

Democratic Republic of Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the major wireless carriers are Vodacom, Orange, Airtel, and Africell. Overall, the country has 5k+ towers with Helios Towers and Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) being two of the largest owners.

Ivory Coast

In the Ivory Coast, the key wireless carriers are MTN, Orange, and Moov. Overall, the country has ~4.5k towers with IHS Towers, Moov, and Orange being the largest owners.

Business Plan Rationale

Eastcastle Infrastructure is capitalizing on the need to significantly increase the number of towers across Africa. Particularly, bandwidth-intensive technologies like 3G, 4G, and 5G are demanding an improvement to the tower infrastructure of the wireless carriers. In turn, these wireless carriers need additional towers to extend and upgrade their wireless networks.

Eastcastle Infrastructure’s towers will fill infrastructure gaps by helping wireless carriers provide coverage and services more efficiently and over a wider area. As a result, the company’s towers will facilitate an increase in quality of connectivity for individuals and businesses in Africa.

Two key trends are contributing to the need for more towers in Africa: i) data consumption and ii) smartphone adoption.

Data Consumption

In Africa, data consumption per subscriber is expected to increase 4x by 2025. This is being driven by the take-up of 3G, 4G, and 5G, which are expected to account for 85%+ of connections by 2025, compared to ~38% in 2017.

Smartphone Adoption

Smartphone usage in Africa is projected to rise to 65% of connections in 2025, up from 44% currently, which is driving an increased demand for data. Indeed, by 2025, Africa will have an additional 200 million mobile Internet users.

Transaction Advisors – AIIM, Adenia, IFC, and Eastcastle Infrastructure

AIIM, Adenia, and IFC’s legal and tax advisors were Clifford Chance and Deloitte, respectively.

Eastcastle Infrastructure’s legal and commercial advisors were Norton Rose and Hardiman Telecommunications, respectively.

Adam Simmons is the Founder & CEO of Dgtl Infra. He started his career with an S&P 500-listed big box retailer, in an operations management role. Adam's entrepreneurial "itch" led him to start a 5G-driven company, focused on innovative retail solutions using augmented reality and shoppable videos, which was eventually sold to an advertising and consulting group. After, realizing the potential of 5G, Adam shifted his efforts towards investing in the "building blocks" of 5G - known as digital infrastructure, completing a number of strategic investments, buying cellular towers, data centers and fiber networks.

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