Helios Towers set to hit redial on London listing
13 September 2019
Helios Towers, the Africa-focused telecoms towers company, is expected to announce its intention to list on the London Stock Exchange as early as Thursday in what would be its second attempt after an aborted effort last year.
The Mauritius-incorporated company, founded in 2009, has about 7,000 towers in five countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania where there are no other independent companies renting masts to mobile operators. The company also recently launched in the competitive South African market.
Helios leases towers to mobile operators Airtel, MTN, Orange, Tigo and Vodacom.
People close to the company, which could be valued at anything up to $2bn, said it had decided to try an initial public offering again after several other Africa-focused companies had listed this year. They also cited what they said was a strong growth record in the past 18 months.
This year, both Network International, a payments provider in the Middle East and Africa, and Bharti Airtel Africa have listed in London, although Airtel’s price has been soft since launch. Jumia, an Africa-focused ecommerce group, listed in New York in April to great fanfare, though its shares have also fallen sharply after an initial rise.
A Helios listing would follow the sale of Eaton Towers, a slightly smaller Africa-focused mast company, to American Tower in May in a deal in which Eaton was awarded an enterprise value of $1.85bn. Like Helios, Eaton Towers pulled its listing last year, citing difficult stock market conditions.
As part of its public offering, Helios will establish a holding company in London chaired by Samuel Jonah, a prominent Ghanaian businessman. The company has expressed its interest in further expansion, especially in fast-growing markets such as Senegal and Morocco, and hitherto closed ones, including Angola and Ethiopia.
Mobile networks are still expanding quickly in Africa but have generally bought into the idea that it is better for them to lease towers rather than operate them.
As early as next month, Ethiopia, a country of 110m people with one of Africa’s least developed telecoms sectors, is expected to license spectrum to two new operators as part of a broader liberalisation agenda.
The government had considered splitting the towers business from Ethio Telecom, the state provider, but has since moved away from that idea, say bankers close to the transaction.
The Helios listing is being co-ordinated by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Jefferies and Standard Bank. If successful, it is expected to float in London as early as next month.