IFC Helps Boost Digital Infrastructure in Western Balkans with Landmark Investment

Source: www.gulfoilandgas.com 1/22/2024, Location: Europe

IFC's investment will help create the first independent tower company in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.
It will enhance tower sharing among mobile operators in the three countries of operation.
Aims to accelerate digitalization by rolling-out faster mobile technologies in a more cost-effective and sustainable manner.

Individual and business subscribers in the Western Balkans will have broader and better access to mobile connectivity through a landmark IFC equity investment that will establish the Western Balkans' first independent tower infrastructure company and will spur sustainable private sector-led growth.

IFC will be investing in equity, alongside a consortium of regional and international investors including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), through an investment vehicle that will be managed by Actis, a global fund manager focused on sustainable infrastructure. The investment will support the acquisition of more than 1,800 telecommunication towers, spread across Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, from Telekom Srbija, a state-owned regional telecom operator.

IFC is a strong proponent of digital infrastructure-sharing models, including independent tower companies, which provide high quality and affordable digital connectivity to individuals and businesses, including in underserved rural areas. Shared towers also limit the environmental footprint of digital infrastructure and boost energy and resource efficiency.

"We are very proud to lead this groundbreaking investment, marking the first transaction of its type in the Western Balkans. Together with such a strong and diverse group of equity partners, this investment strengthens Actis' strategic decision to expand its investment strategy into the Central and Eastern Europe region following on investments made in 2022 in the energy sector in Romania and Bulgaria," said Jaroslava Korpanec, Partner and Head of Central and Eastern Europe at Actis. "We look forward to a long-term relationship with our partners and Telekom Srbija, in developing a first-class tower portfolio in the region."

The investment will also enable the further growth of the tower infrastructure through lease agreements with the telecom companies operating across the three countries.

"Our experience is that telecom towers can be more effectively deployed and managed when operated by independent private sector companies. In the Western Balkans, this new company will provide better access to digital infrastructure, which will support greater connectivity, inclusive growth, and improved productivity," said Nicolas Marquier, IFC Regional Manager for the Western Balkans.

The project also highlights the importance of private capital mobilization, particularly in the Western Balkans, where access to market funding and foreign direct investment has been constrained following the COVID-19 pandemic and recent geopolitical developments.

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