Helios Towers Eyes Investments in Telecom Sector

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Helios Investment Partners, the private equity fund that owns a quarter of Equity Bank's shares, is seeking to deepen its presence in Kenya by raking up its investments in the telecommunications and outdoor advertising sectors.

Helios announced last week that it had raised Sh80 billion ($900 million) from investors, which analysts termed as one of the biggest amount of capital ever raised by an Africa-dedicated private equity fund.

The money for Helios II fund came from endowment funds, foundations, corporate pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and development finance institutions in America, Europe, Asia and Africa. "We are looking to grow our footprint in Kenya through our investments in Continental Outdoor and Helios Towers Africa," said the firm in an e-mail statement.

Helios also owns 8.5 per cent of Kenya's Flamingo Holdings, for which it paid Sh1 billion ($12.3 million) in 2004.

A gradual decrease in political risk and a higher return relative to more mature markets in the West have made investors willing to put money in Africa.

In December 2007 Helios completed the Sh16 billion ($178.7 million) acquisition of a 24.99 per cent interest in Equity Bank.

The fund also acquired a stake in the fuel business through ShellHelios' partnership with Vitol, a leading global trader of oil, to buy Shell's retail operations in Africa, including in Kenya.

Continental Outdoor is South African-based outdoor advertising agency which Helios bought for Sh13.17 billion in 2009.It operates in 14 African countries.

Helios Towers Africa builds and operates telecommunications towers across Africa."We cannot give a specific breakdown, however we are looking to grow our footprint in Kenya," added the statement. Dan Awendo, chief executive of venture capital Investeq Capital says, the global financial crisis has changed foreign investors' perception of Africa. "After the global financial crisis everyone realised that there is really no safety net," said Awendo.