MTN may sell R27bn stake in top Africa tower company

MTN. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
MTN. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Johannesburg - MTN [JSE:MTN] could cash in from an initial public offering of Africa’s largest telecommunication towers company by selling a stake valued by the wireless carrier at about R27bn ($2.3bn).

IHS Towers, of which Johannesburg-based MTN owns about 29%, is planning an IPO in New York, people familiar with the matter said last year. If the tower operator goes ahead with the share sale and the valuation is appropriate, MTN will look to sell out, Chief Financial Officer Ralph Mupita said in an interview.

“It is not strategic to lock up so much capital,” the CFO said. While MTN’s stake in IHS Towers is important, its been earmarked by the company as an asset for sale, he said.

IHS, Helios Towers Africa and Eaton Towers are all looking to take advantage of high industry valuations to sell shares and fund expansion, the people familiar with the situation said in November. Helios confirmed the plans earlier this month, saying it would seek an IPO in London and Johannesburg and expects at least 25% of its shares will be freely traded after the sale. IHS Towers declined to comment.

MTN, Africa’s largest mobile-phone company by sales, is planning to cut its debt, Mupita said.

Borrowings rose to R57bn ($4.8bn) in 2017 from R52bn the previous year.

The shares rose 1.2% to R133.60 as of 15:30 in Johannesburg, valuing the company at R252bn.

IHS is owned by French investment firm Wendel SA and Goldman Sachs & Co, as well as MTN.

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