Archive for the 'Telecommunications' Category
January 10th, 2012 by Tom Minney
The JSE Ltd (www.jse.co.za), South Africa’s securities exchange, is hoping to attract more listings from the rest of Africa in 2012 and to expand its range of products and services. This year should also see the JSE installing its equity trading system in Johannesburg, to avoid dependence on a transatlantic cable connecting it to the London Stock Exchange.
Nicky Newton-King, who took up her post as CEO last week after succeeding Russell Loubser and the first woman to hold the post, told Business Day newspaper the plan was to offer more access to African companies and products such as exchange-traded funds products that enable people to access new investments: “With the rules of inward listing being relaxed, we would also like to attract more inward listings.” Besides IPOs, Newton-King said she expected to see more types of products, such as depository receipts and derivatives linked to companies being offered.
The JSE is in “good conversation” with several companies elsewhere in Africa over more potential listings. Last November she told Reuters: “We’ve got good conversations going … particularly on the continent.” She said the bourse is targeting mining, telecommunications and financial services: “Our approach is to look at issuers that need capital — need investors where their home markets might be too small. So we’ve got a lot of different segments we are looking at, but we are looking at particular issuers rather than trying to speak to everyone.”
The JSE already has 14 African companies listed, with 4 different debt instruments and 1 African ETF. Last year Reuters highlighted that some growing African firms preferred other international exchanges, particularly the London Stock Exchange and its AIM market, over the JSE for raising capital and listings, as highlighted in stories on this website. The JSE seeks closer cooperation with other African exchanges as it competes with other world bourses: “Clearly we need to be trying to find a way to cooperate with African exchanges, with African issuers to bring more African product to the table here in SA, where we have a lot of international investors everyday.”
The JSE attracted a total of 16 listings last year, with a combined market capitalisation of more than R35 billion (US$4.3bn), according to data from the JSE’s director of issuer services, John Burke. There were also a number of initial public offerings from the property sector. About 15 companies de-listed last year and 21 were on the suspended list. The number of new IPOs worldwide is lower since the start of the global financial crisis. Newton-King said there is a pipeline for potential listings in 2012: “Definitely there’s a pipeline, there’s always a pipeline. We never talk about the number since how many companies actually list and when they list is very much dependent on the economic circumstances of the country and whether the companies themselves are ready to list.
“We are looking forward to being able to attract a wider range of companies and investment opportunities on the JSE.”
The plan is still to use the same computer provider, Sri Lanka’s Millennium IT which is a subsidiary of the LSE. In terms of a February 2011 press release, the JSE is to migrate to a new system Millennium Exchange™, which the LSE has also adopted, in the first half of 2012. Millennium IT systems are used on many African stock exchanges.
Newton-King told Business Day she hoped this will minimise the outages experienced last year, which were linked to technical issues on the transatlantic cable. The JSE halted trading on its equity markets at least twice last year, which led to the exchange attracting criticism from trading houses, which often spoke anonymously to the media.
She said: “We are critically dependent on information technology (IT) and invest heavily in IT to ensure it is robust and able to handle increased volumes as the JSE grows. Our equity systems are run in London and there’s been some trading outages in the lines between us and London…. We are bringing the systems back to avoid that. We will continue to look at whether our technology is robust enough to withstand volumes.”
She did not give much information on rumours that the JSE is talking with SA Treasury on starting a trading market for carbon credits but said the JSE was looking at the possibility and how it would work with others.
Of the type of environment that she envisions at the JSE, Ms Newton-King says: “In 2012 I would like the JSE to be recognised as a place of excellence, a place where SA’s top talent would come and work, where our clients recognise that we provide products and services that are valuable to them.”
Her former post as deputy CEO no longer exists and duties that fell to her are being given to other people so that they can also grow.
November 11th, 2011 by Tom Minney
The International Finance Corporation (www.ifc.org) plans to invest heavily in new African telecommunications projects, with spending plans for up to $300 million in the financial year to June and another $400m the following year. According to a story on Reuters, the private-sector financing arm of the World Bank group is aiming for projects that are not commercially attractive to traditional financiers.
Kent Lupberger, IFC’s global head for Technology, Media and Telecom, told Reuters at an industry conference on 9 Nov: “We would very much be looking to do $200-$400 million a year for our own account in Africa and ideally helping mobilise funding from other sources — commercial banks, other development institutions — to double or triple that.” The IFC is to focus on new telecoms opportunities such as data centres, tower sharing, IT services and “last mile” broadband connectivity, reaching to end users, among others.
The IFC has previously gave considerable finance to cellular companies but it is cutting back on this because the telcos are now established and have easier access to financing.
October 31st, 2011 by Tom Minney
The Directors of the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (www.opic.gov), decided on 27 October to provide financing up to $285 million to equity funds. These in turn should raise more than $875m, representing the largest commitment by the U.S. Government to impact investing in emerging markets so far.
“Impact investing” usually means private investing looking for investments that deliver social and environmental benefits while generating profits, and is a very fast-growing area of investment. OPIC called for impact investing proposals in March and received 88 applications from which it picked 6 funds. According to a OPIC press release, the response was “so positive that OPIC expects to announce additional approved facilities in 2012.”
OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield commented in the press release: “This is a watershed day in the evolution of impact investing. These new funds, and the additional investment facilities we announce in 2012, will help to fill financing gaps and introduce more innovation into the impact investing space, helping it grow and mature.”
The 6 funds are:
Investment Fund for Health in Africa II (IFHA II): A private equity fund investing in companies that improve health for Africans with low and middle incomes. It expects to target investments in companies that operate in small and medium-sized hospitals and clinics, healthcare products import, distribution and manufacturing, insurance and supporting industries such as water and sanitation, food and nutrition, education and environmental services. The fund manager is Africa Health Systems Management Company B.V. The International Finance Corporation in 2007 invested in the Netherlands-based IFHA I. OPIC: $83m, target capitalization: $250m.
ManoCap: This fund will invest in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other West African countries, with a focus on post-conflict nations. It will invest in sectors including agriculture, agro-processing, sustainable fisheries, services, healthcare, sanitation, construction and building materials, tourism, light manufacturing, and financial services. These SMEs are expected to have a direct effect on the standard of living of “base-of-the-pyramid” communities by providing employment and access to goods and services. Fund manager is ManoCap LLC. OPIC: $34m, target: $100m.
Latin Idea: Growth capital to Mexican SMEs within the technology, media, telecomms and services sectors. Fund manager Latin Idea Ventures III LLC. OPIC: $25m, target: $125m.
MPOWER Ventures: Unbanked and the under-banked populations in emerging markets through providing prepaid debit cards (or GPR cards), and related alternative financial services, starting with Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Fund manager MPOWER Ventures III L.P.,OPIC: $15m, target: $50m.
Sarona: Fund-of-funds will invest in 12-18 private equity funds that target market-based returns while investing in SMEs in frontier markets. Fund manager Sarona Asset Management, Inc. OPIC: $87.5m, target: $250m
Terra Bella: Private equity fund will invest in projects that generate carbon credits through protecting and enhancing forests while generating valuable social and environment co-benefits. Terra Bella will generate returns through the sale of carbon on the growing voluntary, compliance and pre-compliance markets that are emerging in the forest and land-use carbon sector. Fund manager Terra Global Investment Management LLC. OPIC: $40m, target: $100m.
According to Ms. Littlefield: “Each of them promises a strong development impact —be it mobile banking for the unbanked, investing in small businesses in the post-conflict countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, improved health care in Africa, preservation of highly vulnerable forests, or growing small businesses in Mexico. OPIC has a long history of investing for both social and financial returns and we believe impact investing will gain significant traction in the coming years. We are proud to support its development.”
September 27th, 2011 by Tom Minney
Mark Voss of fund manager Silk Invest (www.silkinvest.com) foresees a turning point for the Egyptian market in a recent note. He also notes growth in Tunisia, with companies back to pre-revolution levels, tourism boom in Morocco, giant growth in Ghana and telecom payments innovation in Kenya.
He says the company clearly sees value in the market, but the evolving politics has cast a cloud on investor sentimenty. “We believe this is now lifting as the country’s election commission chief announced a roadmap for parliamentary elections – and a crucial step in transitioning to civilian rule, from 21 November to 4 March 2012. This should also pave the way forward for the Presidential elections by early next year. Going forward, we suspect that this may mark a turning point in the market’s fortunes.” He adds that there is no shortage of lenders to help the country get back on its feet. He adds that core inflation was 6.9% in August from 8.7% in July and Suez Canal revenues climbed 8.5% year-on-year in August.
Also on the post-revolutionary theme, he looks at Tunisia and said it “continued its upward trend with many companies now back at their pre-Jasmine revolution price levels”. Tourism in Morocco was surging and by end of July was up nearly 10% year on year.
For the rest of Africa he pointed out that the IMF forecasts 13% GDP growth for Ghana this year and noted the Chinese gave a US$3 billion loan for further infrastructure developments. In Kenya: “interest rates were notched slightly up to help control inflation and reduce local currency volatility. Following an unexpected increase in harvested maize, food inflation in the country is expected to decline”. Telecoms innovation continues full speed in Kenya, as Airtel Kenya unveiled an online payment system enabling mobile subscribers to use handsets to make purchases online, while Safaricom and I&M Bank launched a service that allows M-pesa customers to transfer money from their accounts to a pre-paid visa card – which can be used globally.
September 8th, 2011 by Tom Minney
[SPONSORED STORY] Banking is changing fast and nowhere more than in the African markets, where growth opportunities are huge with some 250 million households still unbanked, but only for banks with the skills and technology to chase them. Banks are expanding fast across Africa, heralding new competition. Innovative banks are seizing opportunities served up by technology to reach out to millions of new customers and find ways to offer financial services that will help them increase bank revenues, through agency or branchless banking, microfinance, SMME lending, or mobile money, e-wallets and biometrics.
Banking strategies for the future revolve around “base of the pyramid”, “technology convergence”, “cloud” and “inclusive banking”. In order to grow against competitors, banks are moving into technology, from core banking systems, adding a range of user interfaces, including Internet, mobile phones, call centres. In 2011 banking leaders are moving to agency banking and branchless lending. Lessons can be learnt and the future charted for emerging markets, including India, South Africa, Kenya and Malaysia.
Speakers at a top conference “Technology Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies” set for London from 28-30 November include global banking leaders in development, SMME and micro-finance institutions such as Anil Kumar, (CEO of IFMR Rural Finance, India), Yolanda van Wyk (CEO Smart Services at First National Bank, South Africa), Sandeep Indurkar (Head Mobile Payments – Internet Banking and Mobile Banking, ICICI Bank, India). Technology and finance expert speakers include Gerhard Romen (Director Mobile Financial Services Nokia), Dr Tim Kelly (Lead ICT Policy Specialist, The World Bank) and Menno van Doorn (Director VINT Research Institute for the Analysis of New Technology). The agenda covers software-banking partnerships, the impact of broadband, government pressures towards financial inclusion, biometrics including fingerprinting, cloud-based technology for banking, e-wallets and banking in growth economies and technologies for scale.
The conference is aimed at banks across the emerging and frontier markets, particularly where their growth will be linked to new customers with growing incomes, also technology experts and banking system vendors, development finance experts, policy-makers and leading commentators.
Together they will discuss potential solutions to challenges such as:
• Poor connectivity – satellites, cable and changing national and regional regulation
• Central and development banks plans to upgrade current ICT infrastructure
• Infrastructure of tomorrow being prepared for the next stage of branchless banking
• Understanding infrastructure needed to support the alliance between telecoms and banking providers
• Can microfinance banks be a delivery channel hard-to-reach regions?
The first day, 28 November, consists of workshops: i) the fast-track on how ICT creates better delivery channels for financial products to reach the unbanked and ii) branchless banking – seize opportunities and mitigate risks.
The conference website http://technologyinnovation-banking.com gives details and bookings. Or call: +1 212 537 5898 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Early bird discount of up to GBP300 expires in 8 days.
June 22nd, 2011 by Tom Minney
Pan-African private equity firm Helios Investment Partners (www.heliosinvestment.com) announced that it had raised $900 million for its second Africa-focused private equity fund. The final close for Helios Investors II L.P. was at the target set, and a 13 June company press release says that the fund was over-subscribed with more than $1 billion of demand. It is the largest Africa fund raised.
The new fund will follow the investment strategies of Helios’ first fund, looking at new businesses, growth equity investments, structured investments in listed entities and large leveraged acquisitions. It is focusing on high-growth sectors including sectors which have been deregulated, are core to the economy and where Helios has expertise, including telecommunications and media, financial services, power and utilities, distribution and logistics and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). The target investments are $25 million to $250 mn of equity per transaction ion various forms. It aims to make investments over 4 years and to hold assets for 3-5 years.
Helios II fund has already made 3 investments:
- It acquired Interswitch, Nigeria’s leading electronic payments processing company for $110 mn;
- It established Helios Towers Africa which builds and operates telecommunications tower businesses across Africa, and acquired portfolios of telecommunications towers in Ghana, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC);
- It acquired Continental Outdoor Media, Africa’s largest outdoor advertising company.
Helios has also recently announced the acquisition of Shell’s downstream fuels business across Africa.
According to the press release: “Continued political and market liberalisation and strong economic growth have prompted global investors to evaluate investment opportunities in Africa more closely. The Fund’s potential to make attractive risk-adjusted returns with comparatively low correlation to developed markets enabled it to attract a diverse investor base, which includes support from institutional investors in the predecessor Helios fund, as well as first-time commitments to Africa from a broad range of endowments and foundations, funds of funds, corporate pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and development finance institutions across the USA, Europe, Asia and Africa.”
Helios’ team of investment professionals have good understanding of African markets and global private equity experience. Helios has also developed a Portfolio Operations Group, who work with the managers of the companies which the fund invests into, in order to create value within the firm’s portfolio by driving operational improvements.
Helios Investment Partners operates funds and related co-investment entities, aggregating more than $1.7 bn in capital commitments, and is one of the largest investment firms focusing on Africa. It was established in 2004 by partners Tope Lawani and Babatunde Soyoye who still lead it and is among the few independent pan-African private equity investment firms founded and managed by Africans.
Helios’ portfolio companies operate in more than 25 countries and in various industrial sectors. The firm has experience across a broad range of industries and investment types – leveraged buyouts, recapitalisations, joint ventures, seed-stage venture capital, restructurings, and strategic public equity investments.
Limited partners in Helios’ funds include several leading global funds of funds, endowments and foundations, sovereign wealth funds, family offices, high net-worth individuals and development finance institutions. According to website www.privateequityafrica.com, 72% of its commitments are from private and institutional investors and the rest from development finance institutions.
June 15th, 2011 by Tom Minney
Indian steel-to-outsourcing conglomerate Essar has cancelled deals to buy telecoms operators in Uganda and Congo and is putting its Kenyan operations, under the Yu brand, up for sale. It no longer views telecom as core or strategic, according to a report this morning 14 June in India’s Economic Times newspaper and in March agreed to sell its 33% stake in Vodafone Essar, India’s third-largest telecom operator (after Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications), to UK’s Vodafone.
The arrival of India’s Bharti Airtel in Kenya, after it acquired Zain in mid 2010, had sparked a price war that fundamentally changed the attraction and investability of telecommunications in Kenya. Bharti operates in 19 countries in Africa and Asia and has 200 mn customers.
Essar had agreed in November 2009 with Warid, part of UAE’s diversified Dhabi group, that Essar would buy a majority stake in Warid Telecom’s operations in Uganda and Republic of Congo (“Congo Brazzaville”), with a reported enterprise value of $318 million. This deal fell through because required approvals were not received and the paper reported a statement from Essar on 14 June: “It was mutually decided between the partners – Essar and Warid Group – not to proceed with the deal closure as certain condition precedents pertaining to government clearance were not met.”
The assets are to be returned to Warid, and it is not clear how much they will pay Essar back.
The paper says Essar had bought the Kenyan telco for about $150 mn and invested a further $100 mn and is looking for a price of about $300 mn. Bharti had apparently said it is busy consolidating its Zain acquisition and other buyers are not interested. The paper said it was the third largest operator, competing with Safaricom, Orange which is part of France Telecom and Bharti Airtel.
May 19th, 2011 by Tom Minney
The Rwandan Government plans to raise Rwf25 billion ($42.2 million) through the sale of its shares in Bank of Kigali Ltd (www.bk.rw) and telecom company MTN Rwanda (www.mtn.co.rw) in coming months.
The bank is Rwanda’s biggest lender by assets and it said the Government will sell a 20% stake to private investors in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) scheduled for June, according to a report on Bloomberg. In addition the bank will offer 25% of its shares to the public, according to the report, citing Chief Operating Officer Lawson Naibo. The Government owns 66.3% and will anticipate selling the rest of its stake later, according to John Rwangombwa, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, during a press conference on 9 May on the budget framework. He is quoted in the New Times newspaper as saying: “BK is confirmed; we are to sell our shares through an IPO. We started the process and it’s expected to be concluded by September, including listing BK on the Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE).”
Minister Rwangombwa said there is expected to be strong demand. Last November 2010, the Government sold 25% of Brassieries et Lemonaderies du Rwanda SA (BRALIRWA), a unit of Heineken NV (HEIA), and the IPO was 174% oversubscribed. BRALIRWA shares closed at RwFr 228, up 68% on the January launch price of RwFr 136.
BK plans to open 44 branches across Rwanda in 2011, and the stock should be attractive stock given its rapid growth and stability.
The Minister also said Government is in negotiations with MTN Group regarding its 10% stake in MTN Rwanda. MTN Group is majority shareholder and has the right of first refusal on any share sales. The Minister reportedly said: “We have two options; if MTN gives us (Government) the price we want, we will sell the shares to them directly while the other option is through an IPO depending on the other investor.”
The Treasury will include the expected proceeds in the budget for the next fiscal year. The Minister said: “This is part of the Government commitment to promote accelerated economic growth under its five year plan of EDPRS (Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy 2008-2012) but also its the approach to liberalise the market.” Rwanda is a high-growth country and a top performer in improving its business and economic climate. It is working towards an ambitious long-term Vision 2020 that seeks to transform the country into a middle-income economy.
The Government remains keen to use IPOs to support the growth of the Rwanda Stock Exchange launched on 31 January by boosting market liquidity and ultimately supporting the country’s economic growth through attracting more inventors and increasing national savings.
The RSE has so far mainly attracted Treasury and corporate bonds, and 2 cross-listed Kenyan companies, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Nation Media Group. BRALIRWA is the only local listing.
March 9th, 2011 by Tom Minney
Emerging Capital Partners (www.ecpinvestments.com) has won an award as “Best Private Equity House in Africa” named by EMEA Finance magazine (www.emeafinance.com). This recognizes ECP’s achievements in raising over $613 million for its third pan-African fund, ECP Africa III (AF III), making it the largest fund ever raised for growth equity investing across Africa. It brings ECP’s total assets under management to $1.8 billion.
ECP is praised for committing over $1 billion to diverse investments across all of Africa and impacting growth and development in over 40 countries. It is the second consecutive year ECP won the award.
Hurley Doddy, a founding partner and Co-CEO of ECP said in a press release: “We are extremely proud to receive the award for “Best Private Equity House in Africa” for a second consecutive year. Africa’s profile as a compelling investment story has accelerated in pace over the last two years, so we feel ever more privileged to be held up as the leading firm among our many excellent peers.
“The fact that we were able to raise over $613 million during a time of great financial uncertainty proves that we are certainly not alone in believing in Africa’s potential. Our dedicated focus and extensive presence on the ground adds operational value unrivalled by our peers. We look forward to continuing our success across Africa throughout 2011 and beyond.”
Doddy told Reuters agency in an interview on 7 March that Africa offers plenty of scope for private equity investments, with at least another decade of strong growth expected from consumer goods, broadband internet and financial services. After years of explosive growth in cell phones and banking, he foresees the new growth sectors will also include TV over Internet, insurance and real estate.
Recently, ECP has deployed over $180 million from AF III in 4 investments which provide new services and increase opportunity in 17 countries: Financial Bank, a Togo-based commercial bank with operations in Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Chad, Mauritania and Guinea; Wananchi Group, a high-speed Internet provider serving Kenya and Tanzania; Groupe NSIA, a West African company providing insurance to Benin, Togo, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Congo and Gabon; and Thunnus Overseas Group, a leading canned tuna provider supplying France with over 25% of its canned tuna products from bases in Madagascar and Cote d’Ivoire.
The group has already made more than 50 investments and 20 successful exits in Africa. Past investments include Nigerian wireless network operator Starcomms and pan-African mobile operator Celtel International, sold to Kuwait’s MTC for $3.4 billion in 2005 before MTNCI was rebranded Zain last year and its African assets were bought by Bharti Airtel. Doddy told Reuters: “Those companies are now quite big. The rates of growth are declining so we’ve been getting out of our last investments in that segment of the telecom business, looking maybe to get in some other segments,” he said.
One such example is Kenya’s Wananchi, a triple-play telecoms firm which bundles broadband internet, cable television and voice telephony into one package and is rolling out its services to 9 east African countries. “A country like Kenya may be over 50% in terms of cell phone penetration but Pay TV, broadband are still at the 1% and 2% type range, so once again we probably have another decade of growth in that type of business,” Doddy said.
He saw further growth in Nigeria’s banking sector, a favourite of frontier market investors, and predicted financial services including insurance would also generate high returns. Changes in land ownership laws would also allow lucrative real estate investments and growth in mortgage lending. Soaring food prices in recent quarters meant investors were increasingly interested in Africa’s agricultural potential, with swathes of arable land that could be put to more productive use. “We’ve seen a real uptake in people looking at agro-businesses here.”
Popular uprisings in North Africa might slow investment in the short term but could unlock the region’s economic potential in future. “Those places had been held back by governance that needed to be changed…I think it is reasonable to expect higher growth rates in North Africa if you look over the next decade.”
He said there was increased interest from Chinese and Indian investors but viewed these as potential co-investors or exit opportunities rather than direct competition.
“If you have a good cash-generative business here in Africa, almost anywhere in almost in any sector, somebody is probably interested in buying,” Doddy said.
The EMEA Finance award is to be presented at annual Achievement Awards charity dinner in London in June.
February 28th, 2011 by Tom Minney
Tunisie Telecom (www.tunisietelecom.tn) has cancelled plans for a joint initial public offering on the Paris and Tunis stock exchanges after consultations with trade unions following several changes of Government in recent weeks and the resignation of the former president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisie Telecom is the incumbent telecommunication network and service provider and offers fixed, mobile and satellite telephony services and ADSL services to residential and business subscribers through five Internet Service Providers.
Tunisia’s official TAP news agency on 10 Feb quoted a company statement: “Following discussions with trade unions, Tunisie Telecom and the union have reached agreement … to cancel all procedures for listing Tunisie Telecom on the stock exchange and to halt all the privatisation programmes of Tunisie Telecom.”
Earlier in February Secretary of State for Communication Technologies Sami Zaoui said plans for the offer were suspended pending consultations. Workers at the company had been threatening industrial action, but this was dropped after the news that the listing had been cancelled.
The Tunisian Government holds 65% of the shares, with the rest held by Dubai’s TECOM Investments and Dubai Investment Group. It had aimed to be the first Tunisian company to list on NYSE Euronext Paris and on Bourse de Tunis (www.bvmt.com.tn).
In mid-December Tunisie Telecom had filed a 555-page reference document with regulators Conseil du Marché Financier in Tunis and Autorité des Marches Financiers in France.