AFRICA – Helios Towers, one of Africa’s biggest telecom infrastructure operators, has completed a US$364 million initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange.

Founded in 2009 by Nigerian private equity company, Helios Investment Partners, Helios Towers builds and operates telecommunication towers.

It controls 6,800 towers in five African countries including Ghana, Tanzania, DR Congo, Republic of Congo and South Africa. The company made US$356.05 million in revenue in 2018, and its client base includes companies like MTN, Airtel and Vodacom.

Helios initially pursued an IPO in 2018, but it cancelled the plan due to political instability in some of its African markets. It reactivated the listing plan in August this year.

With the uncertainty caused by the impending Brexit, Helios priced its shares US$1.47, which was the low end of its price range according to Bloomberg. But on the first day of trading, its share price rose by 6.50% to give the company a valuation of over US$1.45 billion.

The total value of online payments in Nigeria has reached US$135.4 billion for the first six months of 2019. Data from the Nigerian InterBank Settlement Scheme (NIBSS) shows that this is a roughly 34% gain from the same period in 2018.

Investors will be watching closely to see how Helios fares in early trading as the first post-summer IPO in London, after Kazakh fintech postponed its float last week.

Helios has said it will use the proceeds for expanding its services, including possibly into new countries.

Kash Pandya, Chief Executive of Helios, said the float “signifies our commitment to spreading mobile infrastructure across Sub-Saharan Africa”. Among the shareholders of Helios Towers include Helios Investment Partners, which is also the majority owner of Telkom Kenya.

Telkom is currently in plans to merge with Kenya’s unit of Bharti Airtel, which is also listed among the shareholders of Helios Towers.

The company said it made US$356 million in revenues in the financial year to December 2018, which was three per cent more than US$345 million in 2017.

It operates towers on a sale-leaseback model, which entails buying towers owned by single operators and providing services utilising the tower infrastructure to the seller and other operators.

The model allows wireless operators to outsource non-core tower-related activities, enabling them to focus their resources on core services.