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Helios Towers temporarily halts African expansion

Africa , 07 Apr 2020
CEO said the current environment does not favour acquisition operations.
CEO said the current environment does not favour acquisition operations.

Despite having over US$350-million at hand to finance its expansion plans for Africa, telecommunications tower infrastructure company, Helios Towers, has announced that it cannot go ahead with the investment in the light of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic that has also hit telecoms markets in Africa.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Helios Towers CEO Kash Pandya said the current environment does not favour acquisition operations.

"It's not that the talks are stalled, because you can always have conference calls, but for real mergers and acquisitions to happen, you need things like field investigations. It will be slower for a few months, but the world will have to return to normal at some point.”

In Africa, Helios Towers currently operates in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana and South Africa.

Aside its current markets, Helios Towers had previously expressed interests in the Ethiopian market where it is aiming to acquire 2,500 towers over the next five years, and the intention is to construct a similar number of towers in the country within the same period.

Pandya noted that the company has had to deal with similar health-related threats to the telecom sector in DR Congo.

“We have gained some experience in this kind of situation with regard to comparable and difficult moments crossed in some of our markets, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Ebola epidemic,” he said.

Pandya however expressed optimism in the ability of the telecoms market to weather the storm being created by the current health crisis.

It would be recalled that in October 2019, Helios Towers raised funds after listing its shares on the London Stock Exchange via an initial public offering. The company said proceeds would finance its entry into new African markets and add to a portfolio of almost 7,000 towers.

Year-on-year growth

Mid-March 2020, the company released its results for the year to 31 December 2019 which showed revenue increased by 9% year-on-year to US$388 million from US$356 million in 2018. The company attributed the growth to continued growth in the number of sites and tenancies.

“Helios Towers has had another strong year, both financially and operationally. Revenues increased +9% to US$388-million, Adjusted EBITDA grew 16% to US$205-million. Our operating profit was a touch below breakeven at US$-5 million and included US$63 million of exceptional items, deal costs and non-cash costs related to our value-accretive site consolidation program,” Pandya said.

For 2020 and beyond, the CEO said the company will continue to focus on driving profitable revenue expansion by leveraging the exciting growth in its sub-Saharan markets, long-term client contracts and sustained improvements in its operations, while also prioritising further inorganic opportunities.

“Helios Towers is investing heavily in local expertise, capabilities and training that deliver the services for our MNO customers and their users, as well as generating broader economic benefits in the countries in which we operate. We also remain keenly focused on delivering on the structural opportunities present across Africa,” Pandya stated.

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