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OPIC lends $250m to Myanmar telecom

TPG and Tillman Global Holdings are existing investors in Apollo Towers Myanmar.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US government’s development finance institution, has committed a $250 million loan to telecom tower company Apollo Towers Myanmar Limited.

This is OPIC’s first financing in the country and is seen as a significant step towards public-private cooperation.

According to a statement, the loan will be used to finance the development and operations of a greenfield telecommunications tower rollout which costs $350 million.

The company is currently sponsored by TPG Growth, Tillman Global Holdings, and Myanmar Investments International Limited.

“OPIC is pleased to be working with Apollo on this first, important investment in Burma,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of OPIC. “Telecommunications are a critical part of ongoing development across the world, and through this project, OPIC is looking to have a significant impact on those who previously lacked access to telecommunications coverage in the country.”

Myanmar recently opened its market to private mobile network operators with the aim of increasing the rate of mobile phone penetration from less than 3 percent in 2011 to 75 percent by 2017.

The development of towers by Apollo Towers Myanmar Limited (Apollo) has contributed to an increase in Myanmar’s mobile phone penetration rate from 5 percent to more than 75 percent in the last two years. The financing from OPIC will allow Apollo to continue to grow its tower network and provide voice and data coverage to many areas of the country for the first time.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time in Myanmar, and there is tremendous opportunity for investment. The advantage Myanmar has in having a late start, in terms of building infrastructure, is that we can develop in a way that is smart, efficient, and in collaboration with the right partners,” said U Thura Ko Ko, managing director of Myanmar-based YGA Capital and senior advisor to TPG.

With growing opportunities, TPG is one of the first foreign players to have invested in the country. It made its first investment in Apollo Tower in 2014 quickly followed by another deal with Myanmar Distillery Company in 2015.

OPIC is the US government’s development finance institution. It works with the US private sector to mobilise private capital to help address critical development challenges in emerging markets.

Apollo Towers Myanmar Ltd. is the leading telecommunications tower company in Myanmar, specialising in building and maintaining multi-tenant telecommunication towers, as well as providing and managing power solutions.

Apollo currently provides services to all three licensed operators in Myanmar. It has built approximately 1,800 towers since commencing operations in 2014 and plans to build more than 2,000 additional towers in its next phase of development.