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Helios to build 1000 towers in 5G network push for SA

Feb 25 2019 17:26
Loni Prinsloo, Bloomberg

Helios Towers wants to build 1 000 telecommunication towers in South Africa in the next three years as it tries to capitalise on rapid growth in mobile services and shape up for an initial public offering. 

The company operates cellphone towers in countries including Ghana, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It entered South Africa last month by striking a local partnership and buying an independent tower operator, giving it a foothold in a country expected to lead sub-Saharan Africa in rolling out faster, fifth-generation networks. 

Chief Executive Officer Kash Pandya said Helios will look to acquire more towers from carriers such as MTN and Vodacom. The country has around 30 000 towers in all, with only about 10% of those run by independent companies.

“While the focus is on building in the country, after the acquisition of SA Towers recently provided us with 500 potential tower sites, we are looking at acquisition opportunities,” Pandya told Bloomberg by phone. 

UK-based Helios canceled a planned share sale last year and plans to use a $100 million loan facility to build the towers.

While a call date on a separate $600 million bond is coming up soon, Pandya said there were no definite plans to tap the bond market again.

He said the company was “prepared” for a second IPO attempt but had no definite view on the timing for now. 

Helios reported a 13% increase in fourth-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to $46.5 million.

It had $89 million in cash at the end of last year, down from $120 million a year earlier.

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