M&A Africa: Moody’s Says Expect More Telecom Tie Ups, Less Competition

M&A Africa: Moody’s Says Expect More Telecom Tie Ups, Less Competition

African countries with four or more mobile operators, or companies that have a market share of less than 15 percent are likely to be swallowed up by larger competitors, according to a new report by Moody’s Investors Service.

Moody’s Investors Service, often referred to as Moody‘s, is a bond credit rating business providing international financial research on bonds issued by commercial and government entities. Along with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Group, it’s considered one of the big three credit rating agencies.

The company ranks the creditworthiness of borrowers using a ratings scale that measures expected investor loss in the event of default.

Larger mobile operators with “leading exposures” in Africa’s maturing telcoms markets will continue to have better access to capital, putting them in a stronger position than smaller rivals to pursue growth opportunities in Africa, according to the Moody’s report. Such companies include MTN, Bharti Airtel, Emirates Telecommunications and Vodafone, East African Business Week reports.

The African telecoms market is made up of a mixture of local, regional and international operators, some with competitive regional footprints, according to Moody’s.

“There are too many players in Africa, so there is a strong likelihood of consolidation,” said François-Xavier Roger, chief financial officer of mobile operator Millicom, at the international Telecoms and Media Conference hosted by A.T. Kearney in London.

African countries average three mobile operators, according to the Moody’s report. Some countries have six operators, including Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania.

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“Not all countries are able to support a large number of operators, and smaller wireless operators are finding it increasingly difficult to compete and increase their market share profitably,” said Dion Bate, vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s South Africa. “Companies considering potential mergers or acquisitions will be hoping for cost savings through improved economies of scale.”

With many of the large international operators facing revenue pressures at home, they may be less likely to pursue M&A opportunities in Africa, Moody’s reports. “We may see some revisiting their African footprints as others seek to strengthen their regional positions. This refocusing on domestic markets may also result in some European operators leaving African markets where they have smaller shares.”

Moody’s said M&A consolidations that result in the largest operators getting even more market share in Africa are likely to face regulatory scrutiny.

“Africa’s telecoms regulators are expected to increasingly promote market competition and improved network quality, in line with a trend seen in more developed markets,” Moody’s said.

French-owned Orange sold out its interests in the Ugandan market in 2014, according to East African Business Week.