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Africa cellphone tower company raises more than R5bn in London listing

Oct 15 2019 21:52
Swetha Gopinath and Loni Prinsloo

Helios Towers  rose 1.8% in London after raising 288 million pounds ($364 million) in a long-delayed share sale that gives investors a foothold in Africa’s fast-growing wireless tower industry.

Shares in the company backed by billionaire financier George Soros priced at 115 pence apiece in the initial public offering, the bottom of the range, the company said in a statement.

Shareholders including Millicom International Cellular SA and Bharti Airtel sold down their stakes in the London IPO, with Helios set for a market valuation of 1.15 billion pounds.

Helios has more than 6,800 towers spread across five African countries and the money raised from selling new shares will help it to roll out fourth-generation mobile services and keep pace with soaring mobile data consumption on the continent.

It was originally looking to raise as much as $500 million.

Helios went public as many similar offerings are stumbling or being pulled. Two tech IPOs were delayed last week, citing market conditions, and yacht maker Ferretti SpA late on Monday reduced the price range for its upcoming sale.

Not everyone is getting shy: special-effects company DNEG is exploring selling shares in London to raise 150 million pounds to fund growth, it said Tuesday.

Choppy Markets

African and Middle Eastern companies have helped to keep the London IPO market alive, although with mixed results. Airtel Africa Ltd. has lost a third of its value since listing in June.

Helios already had to cancel an IPO attempt last year. It was one of three African tower firms that tried to sell stock in London or New York. The most optimistic estimates gave them a potential combined value of $15bn before choppy markets scuppered the plans and Helios’s two peers went down other routes.

The biggest, IHS Towers, decided to raise $1.3bn via the debt market in two offerings that will close next week. The other, Eaton Towers, is being bought by American Tower.

Helios serves carriers including Airtel Africa, MTN and Vodacom. It’s the only independent tower operator in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, has operations in Ghana and launched in South Africa this year.

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