Ex-Macquarie bankers run SEA towerco deal

  • Redpeak advises GNI on a fundraise
  • Financial investors are interested, sources say
  • Philippines issues certificate of registration to eight towercos *

TMT Finance has learnt that Southeast Asia-based digital infrastructure operator Global Network Inc. (GNI) is raising equity to fund its growth and expansion in the region, four sources said.

Sources said the company is advised by Redpeak Advisers, a Singapore-based investment banking boutique founded by former Macquarie Capital bankers Anupam Garg and Kingston Pang in 2016.

It is not clear how much GNI is looking to raise, however, sources said it could be around US$50m.

The deal has attracted international financial investors including infrastructure funds, sources added.

Malaysia-headquartered GNI is said to be among tower operators that have been actively building towers in the Philippines, via its local entity PhilTower Consortium Inc., responding to the Philippines' government's policy to increase the number of telecom towers in the country from 18,000 to 50,000 in the next five to 10 years.

PhilTower Consortium is formed of GNI and Japanese telecom infra service operator, JTower [TYO: 4485], a subsidiary of Japanese telco NTT.

GNI's fundraising could be larger than anticipated, one source commented, given its peer Southeast Asia-based independent towerco Frontier Tower Associates (FTA), which also operates in the Philippines, raised more than initially planned.

As TMT Finance exclusively reported last year, FTA was initially looking to raise between US$100m and US$150m via two tranches in a mix of equity and debt – US$50m in equity in the first tranche and another US$50-100m in another tranche. KKR late last year agreed to invest in FTA and, although the investment amount was not disclosed, sources told TMT Finance that KKR put c.US$300m in FTA to help the business establish itself as a regional towerco in the Southeast Asia market.

GNI was founded in 2017 by Devid Gubiani, who used to serve as CEO of Bolt!, Indonesia's first 4G mobile service provider, where he worked for over eight years, as well as vice president and acting-CTO, Broadband Networks, APAC, Ericsson, where he had another nearly eight year stint.

His LinkedIn shows that Gubiani has also held chief executive roles in adanda livemore, a Myanmar-based 4G+ data operator; PT Prima Wira Utama, a Lippo Group venture which operates in-building and infrastructure sharing business in Indonesia; as well as Unwire International, a Malaysian 4G network operator which was spun off Unwired Australia's international consulting operations.

Sources also told TMT Finance that former Axiata Group CFO, Chari TVT, also sits on GNI's board and provides advisory to the firm.

In September 2020, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) of the Philippines issued provisional certificates of registration to 23 independent tower companies (ITC) which allowed ITCs to own, construct, manage, and operate one or more passive telecommunications towers. The provisional certificates were valid until December 31, 2020.

The 23 parties included Aboitiz Infracapital, Inc., ACODA Towers SDN BHD, Alt-Global-Solutions Inc., Transcend Towers Infrastructure (Philippines), Inc., China Construction First Group Corp. and Wingan Construction and Development Corporation, China Construction Yangtze River (M) SDN BHD, China Energy Equipment Co., Ltd, CREI Management Services FZE, Desarrollos Terrestres, Inc., EEI Corporation, Frontier Tower Associates Philippines, Inc., IHS Holding Limited, Inforient Sdn. Bhd., ISOC Edotco Towers, Inc., ISON Tower Ltd. Inc., J.S Cruz Construction and Development Inc., MGS Construction Inc., PhilTower Consortium Inc., RT Telecom SDN. BHD., Shinheung Telecom Co., Ltd., Tamoin Industrial Services Corporation, Tiger Infrastructure Pte. Ltd., and UA Withya Public Company Ltd.

In January 2021, Philippines' newspaper Malaya Business Insights cited DICT spokesperson Adrian Echaus saying that, out of 23 provisional ITCs, eight ITCs secured a certificate of registration valid for five years.

The eight firms were reported to be power distributor Manila Electric Co. subsidiary Meralco Industrial Engineering Services Corp., Communication and Renewable Energy Infrastructure (CREI) Phils. Inc., Desarrollos Terrestres Inc., LBS Technologies Asia Pacific Corp., Transcend Towers Infrastructure (Philippines) Inc., which is American Tower Corp's subsidiary, ISON Tower Ltd. Inc., ISOC Edotco Towers Inc. and CEEC Tower Inc.

However, those that have inked partnerships with telecom operators to build towers but have yet to secure the five-year permit were reported to include Aboitiz InfraCapita Inc., Alt-Global-Solutions Inc., Frontier Tower Associates Philippines Inc. and PhilTower Consortium Inc.

In last August, Filipino telco PLDT's mobile unit Smart Communications signed deals with six ITCs to build about 200 macro cell sites and the six ITCs included Phil Tower Consortium, ISOC Edotco Towers Inc., Frontier Tower Associates Philippines Inc., ALT Global Solutions Inc., Communication and Renewable Energy Infrastructure Phils. Inc. and ISON Tower Ltd. Inc.

As for Redpeak Advisers, in the last couple of years, the boutique advised Indonesian towerco Protelindo on acquiring 1,000 towers from Indosat in 2019, advised Protelindo on its purchase of 1,728 towers from XL Axiata in 2020, as well as advising TPG Capital-backed Myanmar towerco AP Tower Group on a US$140m subordinated debt raise in 2020, as TMT Finance previously reported.

GNI and Redpeak Advisers did not respond to a request to comment.

(*The story is updated with bullet points added in)