UPDATE 1-American Tower, MTN Group form Uganda JV

Thu Dec 8, 2011 5:49pm EST

* JV to buy MTN Uganda tower sites for $175 mln

* American Tower to pay $89 mln for 51 pct stake in JV

Dec 8 (Reuters) - American Tower Corp said it launched its Uganda operations by entering a joint venture tower company with Africa's top mobile operator MTN Group.

The joint venture, named ATC Uganda, will buy all existing tower sites from South Africa-based MTN's Uganda unit for $175 million in a deal expected to close in the first half of 2012.

American Tower, which manages about 38,000 towers around the world, has been buying towers in the U.S. and expanding its footprint in emerging markets.

The U.S. tower company will pay about $89 million for a 51 percent stake in the joint venture with the rest owned by MTN.

American Tower expects ATC will build about 280 tower sites for MTN Uganda over the next three years, and look for opportunities to build tower sites for other wireless operators in the East African country.

"Infrastructure sharing makes absolute sense for MTN and we expect it to play a significant role in reducing our long-term infrastructure costs," MTN Chief Executive Sifiso Dabengwa said.

MTN, which operates in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East, has transformed into a $36 billion mobile giant by focusing on fast-growing emerging markets.

American Tower shares closed at $57.82 on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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