Helios joins African telecom tower IPO charge

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Mobile infrastructure groups plan London listing

Helios Towers Africa is set to float in London and Johannesburg in an initial public offering that will value the African mobile phone towers operator at around £2bn, including debt.

The listing, expected to take place later this month, is the second move by an African-focused company in the sector to tap the London markets. Eaton Towers is closing in on its own London listing that would value the company at about £1.5bn, including debt.

Helios owns more than 6,500 towers in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Ghana. It had revenue of $345m in 2017 and adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation of $146m. It has $600m in debt.

The company was founded in 2009 and is chaired by Allan Cook, the former Cobham chief executive and WS Atkins chairman. Kash Pandya was appointed as chief executive in 2015 when he joined from Aggreko, where he was head of its international operations.

Helios is owned by a host of funds including Soros Fund Management and Albright Capital Management, as well as telecoms companies Millicom and Bharti Airtel. No funds will be raised by the float.

Helios is one of three major African tower companies looking to list alongside Eaton Towers and IHS, which is the largest player but is unlikely to look at to London, according to industry experts.

Eaton is expected to reveal its plans in the coming weeks with a listing in London and Johannesburg also planned. The company has also been tipped as a takeover target with US buyers, including American Tower, which has expanded into Africa, potentially interested, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Eaton Towers has declined to comment on its plans. It appointed Jim Sutcliffe, the former chief executive of Old Mutual and Prudential’s UK business, as its chairman ahead of the planned float.

African tower companies hope to appeal to investors by pointing to long-term contracts in fast-growing markets where data revenue is booming as lower-cost smartphones are launched across the continent.

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