IFC Invests in Helios Towers Africa to Expand Access to Telecommunications
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, last week announced a $25 million equity investment in Helios Towers Africa Limited (HTA) to help the company build and maintain mobile phone towers in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa, increasing mobile phone coverage and reducing communication costs in the region.
HTA is building a pan-Africa tower company starting in Ghana and expanding into other countries such as Tanzania. The company leases space on its mobile towers to telecom companies, helping widen access to mobile telephony, and other communications technologies, bringing new opportunities, including voice services, market information, financial services, and health services, to developing countries in Africa.
Helios CEO, Charles Green, said, “IFC understands the unique needs of growing companies in Africa’s telecoms sector and has provided us with a finance package that will allow us to continue our role as the leading independent tower company in Africa, expanding and providing benefits to mobile operators and users in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Bernard Sheahan, IFC Director of Infrastructure & Natural Resources in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “Broadening access to affordable mobile telecommunications services remains a crucial part of development across Africa. With this investment, IFC is further lowering the barriers to accessing the knowledge, innovation, and improved government and business services that mobile communications can bring.”
The reduced costs of leasing towers gives new, smaller companies access to existing tower facilities and allows larger operators to expand into remote areas that would normally by unprofitable. Lower tower costs should result in enhanced service offerings and declining mobile prices for African consumers.
HTA was established by Helios Investment Partners in 2009 to replicate the success achieved by its affiliate, Helios Towers Nigeria, which in 2005 became the first independent tower company in Africa. In 2010, HTA formed Helios Towers Ghana Limited to purchase and lease back approximately 750 towers in Ghana to mobile operator Millicom, the first transaction of its kind in Africa. The company recently announced that it will acquire an additional 1,020 sites from Millicom in Tanzania.
The investment follows IFC’s 2009 investment in Helios Towers Nigeria, where IFC made available $250 million in syndicated loans, mezzanine financing and senior debt, allowing the company to build, maintain, and lease space on its network of telecommunications towers in Nigeria.