Smile to invest $365m to expand 4G LTE in Africa

Operator owns and operates 4G LTE in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda
Smile to invest $365m to expand 4G LTE in Africa

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Smile has raised $365 million of debt and equity financing to expand its existing 4G LTE mobile broadband networks and services. Smile will also launch its broadband network in Democratic Republic of Congo early in 2016.

The funding is comprised of $50 million of equity, raised from the Public Investment Corporation on behalf of Government Employees Pension Fund (PIC), and a $315 million multi-tranche, multi-jurisdictional debt facility led by African Export-Import Bank with participation from the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Diamond Bank PLC, Ecobank Nigeria, the PIC, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Limited and Standard Chartered Bank.

Smile's shareholders now comprise Al Nahla Group, a Saudi Arabia-based company, which is the majority shareholder; Renven Investment Holdings, a pan-African investment vehicle, in which Nigerian investors, including the Obijackson Group, are the majority; Verene, representing Smile senior management and social entrepreneurs from South Africa; Telecom Investments, a Saudi Arabian-based investment company; Capitalworks, an active alternative management company, specialising in investment in the African mid-market"; the PIC; and Smile employees.

The operator owns and operates mobile wireless 4G LTE broadband networks in the 800MHz band in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

Irene Charnley, chief executive officer of Smile, said: "Now that we are fully funded to deliver national coverage of unrivalled super-fast internet access and clear voice services, our priority is to ensure that our customers experience and benefit from the power of high speed mobile broadband compared to the narrowband services available to date, including how to effectively manage the superior experience in terms of data consumption."

Sheikh Mohammed Sharbatly, deputy chairman of Smile, said: "I have recently had the joy of using the Smile network in Nigeria, and the quality is better than what we experience in the United Kingdom and in Saudi Arabia. By licensing 800MHz spectrum for commercial use at an early stage relative to many other countries, including high-income ones, the governments of Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and the DRC have each demonstrated commitment to be at the forefront of the broadband revolution and to accelerate development and GDP growth, and we commend them."

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