Private equity firms invest $79 mn in telecoms towers

Leading international private equity firms are investing $79 million to build and acquire mobile phone towers in sub-Saharan Africa. Investec Asset Management (www.investecassetmanagement.com), the International Finance Corporation (www.ifc.org, a member of the World Bank Group), and the Netherlands Development Finance Company (www.fmo.nl) are taking equity in IHS Nigeria Plc (www.ihsnigeria.net) which says it is the largest provider of telecommunications infrastructure in West Africa.
IHS is reported to have more than 2,700 towers under its management and is still expanding its ownership and leasing operations throughout Africa. It has subsidiaries in Ghana, Sudan and Tanzania and employs 800 people, according to the website and is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. IHS Executive Director, Issam Darwish, said in a report on the website that the fund would enhance telecommunications services in the country by breaking current barriers in the sector. Investec made the money available via its African private equity funds. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval.
According to the report, Darwish said: “IHS is dedicated to partnering with operators and investors across the African continent and is thrilled to add the IFC, FMO and Investec Asset Management’s private equity fund to our shareholder base. Since 2001, the company’s core strategy has been to serve the growing needs of the telecommunications operators in Africa and enhance the quality of the network performance.
“The investors understand the unique needs of the growing telecoms sector and the changing competitive landscape. The additional financing package also includes up to $115 million of IFC-led senior debt, mezzanine and syndicated loans, which will allow us to continue our leadership role in providing managed and co-location services to mobile operators and users in Africa.”
Darwish said IHS intended to bring down costs, expand coverage, accelerate technology rollouts and improve the quality of service for subscribers in Africa.
Last October, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had called for more investments in the telecoms sector as Nigeria sought to become Africa’s telecommunications hub.
Yvonne Bakkum, Director Private Equity, FMO, reportedly said: “Access to telecommunications continues to be essential for the economic and social development of Africa. IHS increases the efficiency and quality of existing networks and helps operators accelerate network expansion into rural areas. FMO is proud to contribute to this through our investment in IHS, alongside Investec and IFC.”
IFC is a member of the World Bank Group and the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in developing countries. Andrew Gunther, Senior Manager, IFC Infrastructure and Natural Resources in Africa and Latin America, said: “Broadening access to affordable mobile telecommunications services remains a crucial part of development across Africa. IHS’ track record of improving quality while reducing costs will continue to provide savings that benefit all constituents of telecommunications in Africa.
“With this investment, IFC is helping improve quality of service, expand network coverage, reduce deployment, operating and usage costs – while accelerating the innovation that governments and operators can deliver throughout Africa.”
Investec Asset Management is one of the largest third-party investors on the African continent. It was established in 1991 and has grown into an international business managing approximately $80 billion (end Sept 2010). Mark Jennings, Investment Principal, Investec Asset Management: “IHS has a 10-year track record of profitable growth, is led by an energetic and experienced management team which includes the founders of the business, and is poised for substantial further growth which the new funding will assist. We are pleased to be associated with this dynamic business and team.”
In October 2009, the IFC invested $100 million into Helios Towers Nigeria Ltd. (www.heliostowers.com), set up by Helios Investment Partners as reported on this blog. HTN builds and maintains a network of telecommunications towers and leases space to providers of wireless telecommunications services.

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