Biggest African Phone-Tower Firms Are Said to Plan 2018 IPOs

Updated on
  • IHS said to seek New York listing; Helios, Eaton in London
  • Towers operators face rising demand, high valuations

Three of Africa’s largest telecommunication towers companies plan to pursue share sales in either London or New York early next year, taking advantage of high industry valuations to fund expansion, according to people familiar with the matter.

Closely-held IHS Towers, targeting an enterprise value of $10 billion, plans to list in New York, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public. Helios Towers Africa LLP is looking at a valuation of at least $2 billion, while Eaton Towers Ltd. is aiming for about $2 billion, the people said. Both will list in London, while Eaton is also considering a secondary listing in Johannesburg, they said.

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 percent to 990 million in five years, according to Ericsson AB. Tower operators, which also sell power to remote sites in Africa, are looking to build new masts and buy existing ones from carriers such as MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd.

The planned stock sales are being timed to line up with robust interest among investors for the stable returns and growth offered by tower companies, which host equipment for carriers on their masts. Tower operator shares are near record highs globally, with many making acquisitions as phone companies offload infrastructure. Spain’s Cellnex Telecom SA has gained 52 percent this year and American Tower Corp. is up 39 percent.

“There is strong demand for tower company assets and similarly investor appetite for emerging market telecom businesses,” said Laura Graves, managing director for Africa at TowerXchange, a networking and advisory group for the towers industry. She said she expects IHS Towers, Helios and Eaton to each list about half of their share capital to bring in new investors.

The African tower companies have each appointed banks and advisers and are meeting with potential investors to test interest, said the people. IHS has hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley; Helios Towers is working with Standard Bank Group Inc., Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse Group AG; and Eaton Towers is working with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS Group AG.

Representatives for IHS Towers, Helios and Eaton declined to comment. Credit Suisse, UBS, BAML and Standard Bank declined to comment, while the rest of the banks didn’t respond to requests for comment.

IHS is part-owned by Johannesburg-based MTN, French investment firm Wendel SA, and Goldman Sachs & Co. Millicom International Cellular SA, which has mobile-phone operations in Latin America and African countries including Tanzania, owns a stake in Helios. Eaton is part-owned by Ethos Private Equity Pty Ltd.

Helios Towers said in September that it was exploring strategic options, including a potential listing on the London Stock Exchange, though said no final decision had been made. IHS Towers told Bloomberg last year that it would look to New York and London for a possible listing.

— With assistance by Ruth David

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