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African operators finds something to Smile about

Smile Telecoms, which owns and operates 4G networks in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, has raised US$365 million in funding, which will be used to expand its networks in new and existing markets.

The company, which operates 800MHz LTE networks, said it aims to offer “clear voice services and have national coverage comparable to the largest 3G network in each of its current countries of operation” by the end of the year.

It also wants to launch its broadband network in Democratic Republic of Congo early in 2016.

The debt and equity financing will be used to accelerate national network roll-outs, including equipment and services provided by Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, a full MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) network, a London point of presence, and expanded international backhaul services, as well as to fund operational expenditure and working capital.

The funding brings the total funding committed to Smile since its founding in 2007 to approximately US$600 million.

The most recent funding comprises of US$50 million of equity raised from the Public Investment Corporation on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund, and a US$315 million debt facility led by African Export-Import Bank with participation from other banks, including the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Ecobank Nigeria.

Smile’s majority shareholder is Saudi Arabia’s Al Nahla Group.

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