Archive for the 'Telecommunications' Category

Helios Towers raised $364m in London IPO

Mobile telephone infrastructure company Helios Towers raised $364 million and listed on the London Stock Exchange yesterday 15 October. The stock HTWS launched at the bottom of the target price range at 115p and traded in a range of 115.00 – 126.98 over the day. Excluding the “greenshoe” extension the offer raised $318m, according to the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

Gokul Mani, Head of Primary Markets – Middle East, Africa & India, LSE, said in an email: “London Stock Exchange continues to be a strong partner to companies across the Middle East and Africa. Four of the five largest IPOs from the region this year have listed on our market. London’s capital markets offer deep liquid pools of capital, connecting issuers from the Middle East and Africa with long-term international investors, supporting dynamic companies, infrastructure development, and economic growth in the region. ”

In total, 124 companies from the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region are listed in London and have raised over $35 billion in equity issues. There are also 242 active MEA bond issuers who raised nearly $143bn. Of the top 10 initial public offers (IPOs) on the LSE in 2019, 4 are from MEA region. According to a Bloomberg report; “The London market is particularly quiet and Helios is one of several African and Middle Eastern companies that are helping to keep it alive.”

The share offer allowed shareholders including Millicom International Cellular SA and Bharti Airtel Ltd. to sell down their stakes. It was founded in 2009 with $350m backing by London-founded private equity firm Helios Investments alongside investors including George Soros and Madeline Albright, according to this report on Quartz .

Helios has more than 6,800 mobile telecommunications towers spread across five African countries (South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Republic of Congo and Tanzania) which it rents to mobile phone providers such as Vodacom, MTN and Airtel. It plans to use some of the IPO proceeds to keep pace with fast-growing consumption of mobile data in Africa, expand into new markets, build more towers and roll out fourth-generation (4G) mobile services. We wrote about the IPO here.

Another major mobile operator IHS Towers is raising $1.3bn via debt markets with 2 issues closing next week, according to Bloomberg, while American Tower Corp is buying a third provider, Eaton Towers Ltd. for $1.85bn.

Quartz cites Matthew Edwards, head of research for the region at research firm TowerXchange, there are 158,000 towers in Africa and “towercos” own 39.3%. There are expected to be more than 600m subscribers to mobile phones by 2025.

Towers can bring revenues to rural communities and land-owners. According to Quartz “As part of efforts to cut down costs, towercos are increasingly investing in hybrid power solutions like lithum-ion batteries and solar power. There’s a net upside for local communities housing towers given the possibility of reduced diesel consumption for generators and an accompanying reduction in emissions and pollution.”

This distinguishes Helios Towers, according to this LSEG backgrounder: “One thing that differentiates Helios Towers Africa from some of its competitors is that every site it operates also contains a mini power station. ‘This provides our customers with the uninterrupted power needed for mobile networks,’ explains Kash (CEO Kash Pandya), who is optimistic about the company’s prospects for the future. ‘It’s an exciting time to be in telecoms in Africa and a very exciting time to be in towers too.’”

$1.8bn Helios Towers closing London IPO on 14 Oct

Heliso Towers raising in London for Africa expansion and 5G

Africa’s next mega-listing on the London Stock Exchange is an African company that operates 7,000 towers in the mobile telecommunications sector that continues to show strong growth. According a a recent report on Reuters, Helios Towers Ltd has priced its initial public offering (IPO) at 115-145 pence per share on 2 October, implying a total valuation of $1.42 billion to $1.79bn.

According to the report, the deal close books on 14 October and first day of trading is expected on 15 October. Bank of America/ Merrill Lynch International, Jefferies and Standard Bank are joint global coordinators while Renaissance Capital and EFG Hermes are joint bookrunners. Helios is planning a free float of about 25% of its shares.

The pricing is down from earlier suggestions of up to £2bn ($2.47bn), including in the Financial Times, when the listing was first announced on 12 September. There have been several global listings this year including e-commerce company Jumia in New York, telco Airtel Africa and payment provider Network International in London. Recently the share prices of both Airtel and Jumia have been weak.

Reuters quotes one source familiar with the Helios deal: “It’s a really good business in a strong sector, telecoms in Africa is the sort of growth story that appeals in this low-growth environment (globally)”.

According to Kash Pandya, CEO of Helios Towers, in a report on website Total Telecom: “The Sub-Saharan Africa telecommunications market is and will continue to be one of the most exciting and high growth in the world. The underlying demographic and macro-economic trends are compelling: a young, growing and increasingly urbanized population whose demand for high-quality mobile voice and data services continues unabated, which is being further fuelled by expansion of 3G and 4G services and one day 5G services; and GDP growth that across our markets is expected to be 4.5%. per annum to 2024.”

Helios rents towers in 5 countries to telecommunications companies such as Airtel, MTN, Orange, Tigo and Vodacom. It has entered the competitive South African market, operates in Republic of Congo and Ghana, and is the only provider of towers in Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. It reached earnings before interest, depreciation, taxes and amortization (EBIDTA) of $201m at the end of the second quarter of 2019, after 18 consecutive quarters of growth in adjusted EBIDTA.

It aims to raise $125m by issuing new shares in an initial public offer (IPO) and to use the money to expand, including into other fast-growing markets such as Senegal and Morocco and potentially into Angola and Ethiopia. The offer would also allow shareholders, including the International Finance Corporation and telecommunications firms Millicom and Bharti Airtel, to sell some of their shares.

Helios was founded in 2009 and is incorporated in Mauritius, although it will set up a holding company in London chaired by Ghanaian businessman Samuel Jonah.

Market conditions in 2018 caused both Helios and Eaton Towers, another telecoms company, to cancel plans to list internationally. Eaton Towers, slightly smaller than Helios Towers, was sold to American Tower in May in a deal which gave it an enterprise value of $1.85bn, according to the FT.

Africa issuers raised $341m in 6 months, down 28%

Enterprises based in Africa raised $341 million through equity issues in the first half of 2019, down 28% on the $472m raised in the first half of 2018. Law firm Baker McKenzie has published its Cross-Border IPO Index for H1 2019, using data sourced from Refinitiv, and says this was mainly because only $85m was raised from 4 initial public offers (IPOs) on African exchanges, down 80% from $419m from 4 IPOs in the first half of 2018.

The numbers exclude mega issues by Africa-focused issuers based outside Africa. These include $750m raised on 28 June by the IPO for UK-headquartered Airtel Africa (read about the slow first day) which operates in 14 countries; and $196m raised by pan-Africa e-commerce Jumia Group (headquartered in Germany) on the New York Stock Exchange in April, see our article about the share price performance since then. Jumia sells in 13 African countries and is top e-commerce website with over 15m monthly visitors in Nigeria.

Wildu du Plessis, Head of Capital Markets at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg, says in a press release: “The drop in African IPO values in H1 2019 was mostly because of political and economic uncertainty on the continent. Investors wanting to raise capital in Africa are thinking twice and waiting for political and economic stability to return before going ahead. Also eroding investor confidence in Africa are the escalating global trade tensions, which have culminated in, for example, the so-called United States (US) China trade wars and the possibility of a “no deal Brexit” – both have the potential to impact African economies significantly.”

Egypt buzzing

Listing bell and trading floor of the Egyptian Exchange

Baker McKenzie says Egypt is generating buzz around its pipeline of IPOs with some speculating this could be the busiest year for listings in Cairo since the uprising in 2011. Growing confidence in economic policies introduced since the currency float has boosted the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) and is prompting companies to consider share sales.

In April Khalid Abel Rahman, Assistant Minister of Finance for Capital Market Affairs, said the Government was embarking on an IPO programme is to raise EGP100bn ($5.8bn). Mohamed Farid, Chairman of the Egyptian Exchange, said that three private companies expect to launch initial public offerings (IPOs) before the end of 2019,

Baker McKenzie says a large IPO is Carbon Holdings Ltd, expected to raise $250m by selling a 30% stake and listing in London and Egypt. The company has missed the Q2 timetable mentioned by Karim Helal, Managing Director of Corporate Finance and Investor Relations, in this article last September. EFG Hermes is acting as advisor and global coordinator for the IPO, Baker & McKenzie is local legal counsel, and White & Case is international counsel.

Another large IPO is expected from Banque du Caire SAE, owned by Egypt’s second-largest state-owned bank Banque Misr. The bank has announced it will offer a 20%-30% of its shares for sale through private placement and public offering. The offer is expected to raise $300m-$400m and is forecast to happen in Q3 or Q4.

Hard work in South Africa

Du Plessis warns that governance concerns held back capital raising in South Africa: “Capital raising has decreased substantially in recent years, also due to economic and political uncertainty. Political stability will hopefully begin to return now that country’s elections are over, but there is still a lot of work to do to stabilise the economy. The World Bank recently downgraded South Africa’s growth rates and I think there is at least another year of hard work before the economy starts to recuperate and capital markets in South Africa recover,” Du Plessis says.

Life returns in Nigeria

Du Plessis adds: “There are also signs of life returning to Nigeria’s capital markets. Political instability was also to blame for a big collapse in capital raising in Nigeria in recent years, but the country looks to be recovering”. Baker McKenzie’s recent Global Transactions Forecast predicts more IPOs in Nigeria in the next 3 years. “Hopefully this is the start of a long upswing in capital raising activity in the country,” says Du Plessis.

Not specifically mentioned was the $5.1bn listing of MTN Nigeria on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (see article), which is expected to be followed by a public offering of shares soon.

By sector (details from Baker McKenzie, Enko Capital and other sources)

Energy and power: South African company Renergen Ltd, which produces natural gas and helium, in an IPO in Australia offered 12.5m shares at AUD0.80 to raise AUD10m ($7m) for its Virginia Gas Project in South Africa. Financial: Banking group Oragroup listed on the Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières (BRVM) in April after a successful IPO in Oct-Nov 2018, selling 20% of the shares to raise XOF56.92bn ($101.2m) in the largest share offer on the BRVM.
Technology: It was reported by Enko that telco Mascom could do an IPO in Botswana later this year and Econet’s Strive Masiyiwa says it will be in October and will be the biggest listing on the Botswana Stock Exchange, according to this report. Namibia’s MTC (Mobile Telecommunications Corporation) has announced plans for an IPO in Mar-June 2020.
Real estate: ICON Properties PLC’s IPO last December in Malawi raised $19.3m, and the shares were listed on the Malawi Stock Exchange in January.
Industrial: Skyway Aviation Handling Co (SAHCOL) in Nigeria launched an IPO in November 2018 but only raised NGN1.2bn ($3.4m) compared to a target of NGN1.9bn ($5.2m) despite extending the offer until January. It listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange on 24 April.
Healthcare: Speed Medical SAE raised EGP21.5m ($1.3m), less than half its target in a domestic IPO before listing on the Egyptian Exchange in April. Consumer: Eastern Tobacco, listed on the EGX, announced in March that it had raised EGP1.7bn ($104m) through offering 4.5% of its shares in public and private offers.

Global Outlook

The Africa picture mirrors a global 37% fall in capital raised through IPOs in global markets, compared to the first 6 months of 2018. According to Baker McKenzie, a total of $69.8bn was raised across 514 IPOs, which is the lowest for value and volume since 2016. The US Federal government shutdown, continuing trade tensions between the US and Beijing, the ongoing Brexit saga and the decline of mega IPOs all contributed to a slower market performance. “With fewer IPOs in the market, competition amongst exchanges is growing, as some listing locations make strategic changes to entice public offerings. The introduction of China’s Science and Technology Innovation Board looks set to shake up the market and challenge New York and Hong Kong for tech listings. “

Koen Vanhaerents, Baker McKenzie’s Head of Global Capital Markets, says: “.. significant political issues stifled activity, along with a change in investor sentiment towards risk – particularly among pre-revenue companies.” The decline “is perhaps skewed slightly when compared to the stellar performance seen in the same period in 2018. With a strong pipeline, H2 2019 looks set to deliver a much more prosperous performance overall.”

EMEA outlook

The EMEA IPO market struggled during the first 6 months of 2019 due to uncertainties surrounding the UK’s exit from the European Union. Overall capital raised fell by 67% compared to the same period in 2018 to $9.2bn while the number of IPOs fell by 61% to 47. Cross-border activity was even more profoundly impacted with only three listings in EMEA and only one of those on the London Stock Exchange. Domestic activity levels helped the London Stock Exchange to retain the top spot for overall capital raising at $2.7bn from 12 listings. Seven of these listings were from the financials sector and raised almost $2bn, the largest of which was Network International’s $1.4bn IPO.

Second to London was Borsa Italiana with $2.3bn from 7 listings, boosted by the $2.2bn Nexi SpA listing. SIX Swiss exchange pulled in $1.9bn from 2 IPOs, with Stadler Rail’s debut accounting for $1.3bn of that.

Despite its sluggish performance, EMEA is proving to be the region of choice for FinTech listings, particularly in the payments field, as the age of digitization and cashless transactions continues to explode, fueling the need for innovation and technological growth. FinTech listings accounted for more than a third of capital raised and the largest listing was Nexi SpA’s IPO.

Weak reception for Airtel Africa $750m IPO

Share price chart from ADVFN ( https://uk.advfn.com/stock-market/london/airtel-africa-AAF/share-chart )

Shares in Africa’s second biggest telecom company had a disappointing start in conditional trading on the London Stock Exchange today. The initial public offer had been priced at the bottom of the 80p-100p range, and in exchange trading it quickly plummeted 16% from 80p and by 4pm the shares had retreated to around 67p.

Today the trading was conditional, only for holders allocated shares in the global IPO. The shares are set to start trading unconditionally on the LSE from 3 July and Airtel Africa will be dual-listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange from 5 July.

The offer of 744.0m shares had raised approximately £595 million ($750m), including 39.2m shares offered to Nigerian institutional and high net worth investors for a total Nigerian offer of some $39.4m.

According to this morning’s stock exchange news service RNS announcement : “The offer was oversubscribed with strong interest from a variety of reputed global investors across the United Kingdom, United States, Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Dominant allocation to Global long only, strategic and pre-IPO investors.”

There is an over-allotment option of 67.6 new shares which, if exercised in full, would account for approximately £54m of the offer. Including the overallotment option, the market capitalization at this afternoon’s price is some £2.6bn ($3.2bn), down from the offer valuation of £3.1bn.

After the IPO the free float was 19% but after including pre-IPO investors holdings the free float will be over 25% and it aims to be included in FTSE UK indices.

According to the RNS announcement, Raghunath Mandava, CEO of Airtel Africa, said: “We are delighted by the strong response we have received.. This is a proud moment for the team that has built Airtel Africa into the second largest mobile operator in Africa. We are now the first telecom company to simultaneously list on the Premium segment of the London Stock Exchange and Nigerian Stock Exchange through an IPO.”

According to our article in January and this month in here and today’s article in the Financial Times a consortium of investors including SoftBank Group, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, Singapore Telecommunications and private equity firm Warburg Pincus invested $1.25bn at a valuation of around $4.4bn last October. In January this year Qatar Investment Authority invested $200m at a valuation closer to $5bn.

At that stage it was anticipated that the London and Nigeria IPOs would raise $1.25bn.

The IPO was advised by 8 global banks: JP Morgan, Citigroup, BofA Merrill Lynch, Absa Group Limited, Barclays Bank PLC, BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs International and Standard Bank.

Indian parent Bharti Airtel aims to use the funds to slash debt and free cash to combat rival Reliance Jio Infocomm in India.

Airtel Africa is the holding company for Bharti Airtel’s operations in 14 countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana. It is Africa’s second largest telco with over 94m customers, and ranked in the top 2 carriers in most of the countries where it operates, offering 2G, 3G and 4G services, plus mobile commerce through Airtel Money.

Performance had improved after years of losses against financially stronger telco players in Africa, including Vodacom. Rising mobile data consumption had helped it reach a first full year of profit and the figures for the year to 31 March were revenue of more than $3bn and operating profit of $734m.

Airtel Tanzania HQ (photo by Prof.Chen Hualin creative commons by Wikipedia)

Airtel Africa confirms June $750m listing in London

Airtel Tanzania HQ (photo by Prof.Chen Hualin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, creative commons by Wikipedia

Airtel Africa has confirmed that it is going ahead in June 2019 with its $750 million listing on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, as flagged up in January in our article. Owned by India’s Bharti Airtel, it is Africa’s second biggest mobile operator with operations in 14 countries and has 99m subscribers and 14.2m mobile money customers.

It said this week that it is aiming for a premium listing on the main market of the LSE, meaning it will float at least 25% of hits shares. It could offer up to 15% more shares through an overallotment option, according to a report in Financial Times which reports that the group says the exact number of shares to be sold and the indicative price range of the offer will be determined “in due course”.

Airtel will use the proceeds to cut the ratio of net debt to EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) to 2.5x, according to City AM. It also plans to expand data and mobile money services across Africa.

It is also considering a listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, according to reports.

Advisers and joint bookrunners appointed are JP Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Absa, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and the Standard Bank of Africa but the sole as its advisers. JP Morgan will be sole sponsor; BofA Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and JPMorgan will also act as joint global co-ordinators.

The amount to be raised in the listing is down from the figure of $1bn given by Reuters on 28 May quoting Airtel, and the $1.25bn figure in January and February.

For the year to 31 March it posted revenue of more than $3bn and operating profit of $734m. For more background on the shareholders and earlier capital raises, read our earlier report.

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MTN Nigeria shares soaring after $5bn listing

Telecommunications firm MTN Nigeria has had strong days of trading since it joined the Nigerian Stock Exchange in a listing by introduction on 16 May. As it moves closer to what the company may feel is “fair value”, chances of a future initial public offering (IPO) increase.

The $5.1bn listing of 20.4 billion (20,354,513,050) ordinary shares of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc (MTNN) at N90 per share on the Premium Board makes it the second biggest stock on the NSE after Dangote Cement plc and ahead of Nestle Nigeria plc, according to Bloomberg. It is the Nigerian unit of MTN Group Ltd, Africa’s biggest mobile-phone company.

Journalist Shola Lawal writing in Mail and Guardian newspaper described the scene: “At exactly 2.30pm, when the stock market closed on Thursday, MTN Nigeria’s chairperson Pascal Dozie and Ferdi Moolman, MTN Nigeria’s CEO, excitedly clanged metal sticks on a gong on the crowded trade floor at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) building. The room, filled with brokers in their maroon jackets, erupted in celebration.”

The shares were priced at N90 and have since climbed some 10% a day to reach N119.75 by close of business on 20 May. The main shareholders are only letting a few shares go until the share gets a higher price, according to an interesting interview by Kayode Omosebi, Team Lead, Financial Advisory at ARM Securities on CNBC. He estimates the stock will keep moving until it gets past N130 when more stock could become available, but his firm estimates “fair value” at N149.

Omesebi adds that interest has been wide including retail investors, and could spark a revival of interest in other equities. It will also widen liquidity across telecom stocks in Africa as investors will have a wider range of shares in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and other markets.

The NSE listing is part of a settlement with the Federal Government of Nigeria after a $5.2bn fine was imposed for failing to meet at 2016 deadline to register SIM cards. In September 2018 there was a $2bn bill for back taxes, and the Central Bank of Nigeria said it has illegally repatriated $8.1bn between 2007 and 2015.

The initial plan was for a share offer or IPO, and MTN Chairman Dozie was not giving any timetable for when that will come: “We were to have an IPO but due to unforeseen circumstances we couldn’t. Half bread is better than none.”

Oscar Onyema, Chief Executive Officer of NSE, said in a press release: “Having MTN Nigeria listed in our market is a testament of the exchange’s commitment to building a dynamic and inclusive market and creating channels for sustainable investment. This listing will promote liquidity for MTN Nigeria, enhance its value and increase transparency, as our platform remains one of the best avenues for raising capital and enabling sustainable growth for national development”.

Analysts also hope that the listing will encourage international oil companies and two other key telecoms firms, Airtel and Globacom.

Mail and Guardian quotes Ugo Obi-Chukwu, founder of leading financial literacy website, Nairametrics: “The last time we had any major listings was in the early 2000s and it was the Government that stimulated those listings… This will open the floodgates for more listings and possibly renew an interest in the stock market.”

The premium board is “a listing segment for the elite group of issuers that meet The Exchange’s most stringent corporate governance and listing standards. This Board features Dangote Cement Plc, FBN Holdings Plc, Zenith International Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc, Lafarge Africa Plc, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc and United Bank for Africa Plc,” according to the NSE.

Ethiopia aims for stock exchange by 2020

Ethiopia has set itself a tight timetable for economic reform, including privatization of telecoms by the end of 2019 and a domestic stock exchange by 2020. A World Bank team was due to arrive in Addis Ababa in December to provide technical help to develop the capital market.

Last week Financial Times repeated the timetable in an interview with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, given to FT Editor Lionel Barber and Africa Editor David Pilling, billed his first one-on-one international media interview. Prime Minister Abiy told them: “My economic model is capitalism… If you give me $100bn now, I can’t use it. There is not only money, there is talent and experience. That’s why we need the private sector.”

The Reporter newspaper in December highlighted a “one-page template issued by the Office of the Prime Minister”, which “cited poor financial infrastructure, limited financing and poor financial inclusiveness as the major impediments in the finance sector. The government plans to develop a road-map for introducing a trade financing instruments including capital market. Increasing loans to the private sector by 20 percent annually and ensure its fair disbursement and expanding credit registry to micro finance institutions are the key areas that will be addressed in 2019, according to the document.”

Reporter Kaleyesus Bekele highlighted debates at the third East Africa Finance Summit on 18-19 December, organized by I Capital Institute. Zemedeneh Negatu, Global Chairman of Fairfax Africa Fund, told the summit: “We are going to have a stock market this time. We have been on this path for 18 years. But now it is no more an academic discussion. We do need a capital market. We are part of the global economy,”

He said Ethiopia is by far the largest economy in the world today that does not have a stock market. “We are going to join the global capital market club. We have a bigger GDP than Kenya, there are only two sub-Saharan African countries which have bigger GDP than us — Nigeria and South Africa. I think it is time. We have companies ready to be listed in the stock exchange.”

He says that top priority is to set up a regulatory institution and create a government regulatory framework, and the private sector can incorporate the stock exchange. “We need to have stock brokerage firms and investment banks. Stock traders have to be trained and the local accounting and auditing firms have to build their capacity.. The financial media has to be established or the existing ones should extend their financial news coverage. Financial media is also the key component.”

Zemedeneh says that 50 to 70 local companies can be listed in the stock exchange. “All the banks and insurance companies, which are well regulated, can offer an IPO (initial public offering) the day the Addis Ababa stock market is ready for launch,” Zemedeneh said.

“The bottom line we are ready and it is timely,” he added.

Business community leader and insurance veteran Eyessuswork Zafu said that technical studies for the establishment of the Addis Ababa Stock Exchange were done by Ernst and Young 20 years ago: “Miracle is happening in this country. I can see the twinkling light at the end of the tunnel. Two years ago we were not able to discuss such matters openly.” He called for urgent action to start preparations.

Ethiopia has a commodity exchange and regulator, new regulator needed for capital market

Financial analyst Abdelmenan Mohammed was reported as saying 2 years is a tight timetable to build financial and technological infrastructure, including improvements in auditing.  Although the Government enacted a proclamation that compels local businesses to adopt International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) and has established an Accounting and Auditing Board, Abedelmanan says progress is slow: “Not many companies are adopting IFRS and the board is not yet strong enough to oversee that. How can we have a stock exchange where there is no reliable accounting information?” However, Zemedeneh, former Managing Partner of EY Ethiopia, said that the banks and insurance companies have adopted IFRS and other companies and government entities are moving towards it. “That is a start.”

Establishing the stock exchange will require rapid boosts in capacity and understanding. According to Zemedeneh: “We need to set up the regulatory body and formulate the regulation. All the other things have not yet started except the adoption of the IFRS.” He warns there is a lotof work to be done to prepare. “I hope they would be able to roll out these things quickly. Two years is a very short period of time. It could be at the end of 2020 or slide to 2021. All the infrastructure need to be prepared.” 

Privatizations including 49% in Ethio Telecom

Other steps highlighted by the FT in a follow up news story include completing “a multibillion-dollar privatisation of its telecoms sector by the end of this year, followed by a sell-off of stakes in state energy, shipping and sugar companies”. It says the stock exchange is “part of a gradual but decisive shift towards economic liberalisation… alongside other ambitious and transformative programmes.”

“The Government is planning to sell off a 49% stake in Ethio Telecom, according to people familiar with its plans. Ethio Telecom is the biggest telecoms company in Africa in terms of customers in a single country, with more than 60m subscribers.

“But its opaque debt structure and low earnings per customer mean it might fetch less than the government expects, say bankers.

“Mr Abiy said that earning cash from a state monopoly was less important than launching services such as electronic money, e-commerce and virtual government, in which African peers such as Kenya are more advanced.

“To promote competition, Ethiopia is also likely to auction off spectrum to two additional telecoms companies, with Vodacom, Orange, MTN and others expected to bid, according to bankers.

“Miguel Azevedo, head of investment banking for Africa at Citibank, said: ‘When I speak with international investors about opportunities in Africa, the first name that pops up is Ethiopia.’

“The prime minister said he would proceed cautiously on privatisation in order to avoid any hint of corruption. ‘We do telecom, we learn something, we evaluate seriously, we continue,’ he said.”

Full interview

Read the full interview with Abiy Ahmed here: Commentary by FT: “Mr Abiy’s emergence has unleashed opportunity and danger in equal measure. Some fear that rapid liberalisation could spin out of control, leading to anarchy or violent ethnic separatism.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Describing himself as “capitalist”, he nevertheless cites Meles as saying it is the government’s job to correct market failures. “The economy will grow naturally, but you have to lead it in a guided manner.”

Still, unlike Meles, Mr Abiy is less wedded to the idea that the state must control the economy’s commanding heights. He is moving swiftly towards privatisation of the telecoms sector in an exercise that should raise billions of dollars, as well as modernising a network that has fallen badly behind African peers.

Here too there are risks. “I need to realise the privatisation with zero corruption,” he says, adding that people who have stashed money abroad want to launder it back into the country.

Successful privatisation of telecoms could potentially lead to a similar exercise in energy and shipping, as well as sugar refineries and, most controversially, the successful national airline that has turned Addis Ababa into a continental hub. Mr Abiy says that, for the moment at least, he draws the line at banking.

“The biggest challenge for Abiy is not politics. It is jobs, jobs, jobs,” says Zemedeneh. With 800,000 students in university or college and 2.5m Ethiopians being born each year, lack of opportunity could quickly catalyse unrest, he adds.

The stock exchange will be a critical component of building domestic savings and capacity in Ethiopia’s private sector so that Ethiopians can take charge of their future, see previous opinion article on this blog. The World Bank has pledged $1.2bn to supporting financial sector growth in Ethiopia.

IPO report – Airtel Africa looking for $1.25bn in 2019

++ STORY UPDATED AFTER ARTICLE IN SUNDAY TELEGRAPH IN UK ON 3 FEB 2019 ++

Airtel Africa, a UK-based company, is on track for an initial public share offer (IPO) on an international stock exchange in 2019 expected to raise $1.25 billion. Last November 2018 the board announced it had appointed 8 global banks JP Morgan, Citigroup, BofA Merrill Lynch, Absa Group Limited, Barclays Bank PLC, BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs International and Standard Bank Group for the IPO. It aims to value the African business at some $8bn.

The company has denied a report on Bloomberg that the IPO could be delayed from March 2019 for 6 months due to emerging markets turmoil.
By that date parent Bharti Airtel had raised $1.25 bn in pre-IPO placements to 6 global investors, according to a regulatory filing on the Bombay Stock Exchange (reported in Economic Times of India).

On 3 Feb, an article in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper suggested the IPO would come to the London Stock Exchange later in the year, after delaying the float because of volatility. At $8bn it would be the LSE’s biggest listing since 2017. It adds that Airtel Africa in January secured a further $200m investment from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund to reduce cash borrowings ahead of the listing.

According to journalist Christopher Williams: “Airtel Africa has turned around in ¬recent years, after making heavy losses in competition with financially stronger players in Africa, including Vodafone-controlled Vodacom. In its most recent quarter profits doubled as mobile data consumption increased across its territories, building on its first full year of profit.”

For various reports, the IPO is expected to raise another $1.25bn. After the IPO Bharti Airtel will only hold some 65%, down from around 92%-93% at present. The pre-IPO investors include Warburg Pincus, Temasek, Singtel and Softbank Group International, according to the report. The money will be used to cut back debt and free up cash to combat rival Reliance Jio Infocomm in India.

Airtel Africa is the holding company for Bharti Airtel’s operations in 14 countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana. It is Africa’s second largest telco with over 94 million customers, and ranked in the top 2 carriers in most of the countries where it operates, offering 2G, 3G and 4G services, plus mobile commerce through Airtel Money.

In December, the tax authority in Niger had ordered the closure of Airtel Niger which has 4.4m customers, over a tax dispute. French-owned Orange said it had also been threatened with closure in Niger over a tax demand, according to this report.

Airtel also announced a new board from the parent company and the investors: Sunil Bharti Mittal, Raghunath Mandava, Akhil Gupta, Vishal Mahadevia, Alok Sama, Arthur Lang, Shravin Bharti Mittal and Richard Gubbins. In a press release it said the board: “brings extensive experience across industry verticals including – telecom & ICT, financial markets as well as in technology, software development and consultancy”.

African revenues rose nearly 13% for the quarter to September, and net income compared to a loss a year earlier.

Some African IPOs – August 2018

Uganda – CIPLA-Quality Chemicals IPO closes 24 August
CIPLA-Quality Chemicals Ltd opened its initial public offer (IPO) on 13 August and will close on 24 August, aiming to list on the Uganda Securities Exchange on 24 September. The pharmaceutical company aims to raise $45 million through offering a 18% stake via 657,179,319 shares at UGX256.50 per share, according to Reuters. The company manufactures drugs that include anti-retroviral, anti-malarial and Hepatitis B medicines and its products are sold in Cameroon, Comoros, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
India’s Cipla Limited, Uganda’s Quality Chemicals and the Government of Uganda set up the company as a joint venture in 2005, and TLG Capital and Capitalworks Investment Partners invested in the company in 2009, holding stakes worth 12.50% and 14.40% respectively. Lead transaction advisor was reported to be Renaissance Capital in Kenya and Crested Capital in Uganda is the lead sponsoring broker.
it ends a 6-year listing drought as the previous IPO in Uganda was Umeme in 2012.

CIPLA-Quality Chemicals in Kampala (file photo)

Egypt – Giza Spinning & Weaving probably Q4
The IPO of garment maker Giza Spinning & Weaving is set for the fourth quarter, probably November. According to reports, the aim is to sell a 40% stake to finance investment of EGP250m ($14m) into expanded production of garments and yarn. The company employs around 4,800 and was set up in 1979. It is the biggest garment exporter in Egypt by volume and the sixth largest by dollar value, with 87% of production exported to the USA and Europe in 2017. Beltone Financial will be the global coordinator and book runner and a roadshow will run in October, according to Bloomberg.

Uganda – MTN under pressure to list
MTN Group Ltd, which has 55% of the mobile market in Uganda with about 10.9m subscribers, is seeking to renew its 10-year licence in October. Godfrey Mutabazi, executive director of Uganda’s telecom regulator, says that selling shares on the local bourse isn’t a pre-condition for the granting of a new 10-year contract, but Uganda wants “Ugandans to be part of the company,” according to this Bloomberg report.

MTN Ghana – IPO closed 31 July
The IPO of Scancom PLC, the name of telco MTN in Ghana, closed on 31 July as par of bids for a local licence. It was selling 35% of the company, in line with discussions with the regulator. Details are to be announced soon and trading could begin from 5 September. It is set to be the largest listing on the Ghana Stock Exchange and shares could also be bought using the MoMo Wallet mobile-money platform. MTN has more than 221m customers across 22 markets in Africa and the Middle East. It had agreed with telecom regulators in Ghana and Nigeria to list its local units, and the offer was set to raise GHS3.5bn ($725m).

MTN Nigeria “not yet applied”
MTN had not yet applied for a listing by 9 July, according to a news report which quoted the Securities and Exchange Commission. Previously it had been reported that the listing could go live in August, when Reuters reported on pre-IPO documents in February 2018. It said that MTN planned to list by July and raise at least $400m to cut debt in its Nigeria unit, which was valued at $5.23bn. The Nigerian pledge to list cwas part of a settlemetn whcih also included a $1bn fine in 2016.

Airtel – London or Johannesburg in 2019
Airtel is reported to be aiming to raise up to $1.5bn by listing 25% of the equity in its Africa unit in early 2019, according to this report on Bloomberg, as part of plans to reduce its debt by $4.6bn over three years. Airtel is India’s top wireless operator. It also was reported to be planning to sell part of its stake in a $14.6bn company owning tower infrastructure, formed when Bharti Infratel Ltd merges with Indus Towers Ltd. It is owned by billionaire Sunil Mittal and is hoping to keep its Moody’s credit rating at Baa3. It sold about 8,300 towers in 7 African countries for some $1.7bn in 2015 and in 2016 sold its towers in Tanzania for $179m and sold its Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone units for some $1bn the same year. In 2010 it paid an enterprise valuation of $10.7bn for the African assets of Kuwait Mobile Telecommunications Co, also known as Zain.

Kenya – National Oil Corporation aims at Nairobi and London in 2019
The Government of Kenya plans to raise up to KES103bn ($1bn from a dual listing of shares in state-owned National Oil Corporation in Nairobi and London, according to this news report in Business Daily. NOC needs the money to exercise its rights to buy back shares before production at the Turkana oil field, discovered in 2012.
Petroleum principal secretary Andrew Kamau told the Business Daily that the contract for the concession of oil blocks in the Turkana oil fields to existing operators has a clause allowing the government to exercise a back-in right, which essentially means buying back a percentage of the ownership before production kicks in. “When you sign a contract you have a right to buy back some share, before production. The percentage we can buy back is 15 in one block and 20 in the other. The listing should raise enough money for the purchase,” said Mr Kamau, without indicating whether the State would exercise its rights for the entire stake under the clause. The two blocks are owned by British firm Tullow (50%), Africa Oil (25% and Total (25%). The Government and Tullow was to start small scale crude production of about 2,000 barrels a day in 2018, with full production due from 2021 after building a $2.1bn pipeline to Lamu on the coast, according to Reuters.

London – Intercement delays to 2019
Intercement is to delay its $1.8 billion IPO on the London Stock Exchange from the second half of 2018 to early 2019, according to reports. It makes cement and related products in Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Paraguay, South Africa and Egypt and was founded in 2008.

For fuller analysis of recent and upcoming IPOs across Africa, see the website of the Enko Africa Private Equity Fund, a $63.4m fund focused on pre-IPO opportunities across Africa.

Vodacom Tanzania’s $213m IPO results due 7 August

According to the latest timetable on the website of Vodacom Tanzania, the extended $213 million initial public offer (IPO) of shares closed on 28 July. Shares are due to be allotted, the register delivered to the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE) and the offer results announced on Monday, 7 August.

Refunds and CSD receipts will be printed on 14 August and the listing and trading of shares will be on 15 August. The offer had been extended previously, see our June story here , most recently from 10 July.

A total of 560m shares had been offered at TZS850 each, for an offer value of TZS476bn. It is the biggest IPO so far in 2017 on African capital markets.

The IPO follows the Electronic and Postal Communications Act of 2010 (EPOCA) which requires all telecom companies to list, and the June 2016 Finance Act requiring them to list at least 25% on the DSE to boost domestic ownership. According to news reports the law was changed in June (Finance Act 2017) to allow foreigners to participate.

According to a Business Report article, Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said in July that opening to international investors: “.. is a positive move for the more than 40,000 Tanzanians that have invested in the IPO as it is expected to improve liquidity of the Vodacom Tanzania shares once they are listed.”

Vivek Mathur, the chief operating officer for Vodacom’s international business, said in a prospectus in February that the capital raising and listing were in line with the government’s intention to strengthen the country’s telecommunications sector to play a key role as the engine of economic growth and socio-economic development: “This process also aims to widen financial inclusion among Tanzanians, and to economically empower the people of Tanzania.”

Reuters reports that two other major telecoms operators, Millicom’s subsidiary Tigo and the local business of India’s Bharti Airtel, have also submitted prospectuses to the regulator the Capital Markets Supervisory Authority CMSA and are awaiting approval for their IPOs.