Telecom operator, Helios Tower plans $2 billion IPO

Helios Towers Plc, one of the largest sub-Saharan telecommunications tower operators, plans an initial public offering in early April to let shareholders such as Soros Fund Management LLC reduce their stakes.

Helios plans to sell shares in London and Johannesburg, the company said in a statement Friday. Helios expects at least 25 per cent of its shares will be freely traded after the sale, and it’s not selling any new stock.

“We want to be positioned well to tap the equity market for funding when and if the right opportunity in terms of expansion and growth comes along,” Chief Executive Officer Kash Pandya said in an interview. “There is opportunity for additional acquisitions in the markets that we operate in with 3,500 towers still owned by our customers.”

Bloomberg in November reported that Helios was seeking a valuation of at least $2 billion. The company has now narrowed its valuation expectations to about $2.6 billion including debt, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the considerations are private.

Africa’s phone-mast industry is booming as rising wireless-device use leads to a leapfrogging of traditional land-line connections. Mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa are set to surge 41 per cent to 990 million in five years, according to Ericsson AB. Two of Africa’s other tower operators, Eaton Towers Ltd. and IHS Towers, are also seeking initial public offerings in 2018, people familiar with the matter said in November.

Helios is the only independent tower company in three of the four countries in which it operates, including Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In its fourth market, Ghana, there is a contract coming up for 750 towers in 2020, said Pandya. Those masts are currently managed by Eaton and Vodafone Group Plc under a contract that is due for renegotiation, Pandya said.

“We are very active and hungry to pursue those towers,” he said.