Sweden’s Telia Company on October 6 announced that it has sold the world’s largest international telecoms carrier business, Telia Carrier, to Polhem Infra—an alliance of Swedish pension funds focused on long-term infrastructure investments—for a value of Swedish krona (SEK) 9.45bn ($1.1bn) on a cash and debt-free basis.
Telia Carrier operates a fibre network that is 65,000-km long, amounting to an internet backbone that covers 115 countries spanning Europe, North America and Asia. It is used by 900 other telecoms operators and technology companies.
Over the past five years, Telia has been gradually selling 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, the Financial Times noted. 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, who took over as chief executive of Telia in May, will use the proceeds to restore Telia’s 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.
Telia sold its residual stake in the parent company of Turkish operator Turkcell in June for $530m and disposed of a minority stake in Afghan operator Roshan in August.
Barclays said in a note that Telia Carrier had been sold at a valuation of 20 times ebitda.
The acquisition is Polhem Infra’s first investment in digital infrastructure. Polhem Infra is jointly owned by the Swedish Pension Funds; First AP Fund, Third AP Fund and Fourth AP Fund.
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