Swedens telia has sold the worlds largest international telecoms carrier business to local pension funds for almost 1bn, as industry disposals continue to gather pace in europe.
Over the past five years, telia has been gradually sold off its international business, which once stretched from turkey to a base station 5,000 metres up mount everest, after its expansion strategy was undermined by low returns and a near $1bn fine related to bribery claims in uzbekistan.
Despite this, the company had maintained its ownership of the worlds largest international fibre network, which is 65,000km long, covers 115 countries and is used by 900 other telecoms operators and technology companies.
This network will now be bought by polhem infra, an alliance of swedish pension funds that focuses on long-term infrastructure investments.
It is the latest example of infrastructure fund and private equity investment in the european telecoms sector, with assets including fibre networks, mobile towers and data centres changing hands in recent years. telecoms companies have been under pressure to extract more value from their assets as share prices have drifted to their lowest levels in a decade.
Allison kirkby, an industry veteran who took over as chief executive of telia in may, has opted to sell the international network and will use the proceeds to restore telias dividend and reduce its debt.
The majority of the proceeds from the sale will be used to strengthen our balance sheet and thereby provide a solid financial base for telia company and our shareholders, enabling both investments in services and networks in our core markets as well as providing a strong foundation for attractive shareholder remuneration, she said.
It is the latest deal she has announced since taking over. telia sold its residual stake in the parent company of turkish operator turkcell in june for $530m and also disposed of a minority stake in afghan operator roshan in august.
Ms kirkby has spent much of her career in scandinavian telecoms working at tele2 and tdc. she also sits on the board of british telecoms company bt.
Telia shares rose 5 per cent to skr38.78 after the deal was announced on tuesday, trading at a similar level to march when telecoms shares dropped sharply during the general market rout.
Barclays said in a note that the business had been sold at a valuation of 20 times earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation.
In march, the group cut its dividend from skr2.45 to skr1.80 after a collapse in advertising revenue at its media business. it has now promised to restore the original dividend following the sale.