Its fibre network – allegedly the world’s largest – is to be sold to a group of Swedish pension funds via Polhem Infra

Swedish operator Telia is one of many telcos that have been gradually selling off their foreign infrastructure assets in order to focus on their home markets. Now the company has agreed to sell its carrier business to a group of Swedish pension funds under the Polhem Infra banner.
The carrier business covers around 65,000 km of fibre and is used by around 900 telecoms companies in 115 countries. But despite the scale of this fibre empire, Telia’s carrier business only accounted for around 6% of the company’s revenue last year, with turnover falling by 2.8% year-on-year. With Telia already pulling back from its more distant markets – including selling its stake in Turkcell earlier this year – it seems now is the time to find another way to get value from its carrier business. 
”The divestment of Telia Carrier highlights the value Telia has built in its digital infrastructure – and today we are able to crystallize some of that value,” said Allison Kirkby, President and CEO of Telia Company. “As a consequence, we can now fully concentrate on our Nordic and Baltic footprint, while we at the same time have secured future access for our customers to Telia Carrier’s world-leading solutions, through a long-term strategic partnership.”   
Kirkby noted that the funds raised from the sale would be used to bolster the company’s financial position and restore value for stakeholders, including effectively restoring the dividend that it had dropped at the start of the pandemic in March.
Meanwhile, this is Polhem Infra’s first foray into the telecoms market, having been set up by a trio of Swedish pension funds around a year and a half ago. Polhem already has investments in renewable energy, but views telecoms infrastructure as being an especially lucrative investment, citing the forecast increase in internet traffic and the emergence of technologies like 5G and the IoT.
“Telia Carrier manages and operates backbone fibre networks for digital communication. We see it as a long-term investment in digital infrastructure, one of our core areas,”said Polhem Infra chief executive Mikael Lundin. “As an investor in Nordic infrastructure we will be a stable and long-term owner, committed to the company and its role in the transition towards sustainable and thriving societies globally." 
With telcos under more pressure than ever to monetise their assets, the past couple of years have been an exciting time for investors to snap up infrastructure deals, whether in the form of fibre networks and mobile towers. Cellnex, for example, has been on a major acquisition offensive over the last year, seeing its tower assets swell to over 60,000 sites across Europe. As budgets continue to be squeezed by the coronavirus, we should expect further asset sales as operators move to weather the storm. 
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