Over the last year, Helios Towers has been seeking to expand rapidly throughout Africa. Back in September 2020, part of this expansion was realised with the purchase of 1,200 towers from Senegalese operator Free for €160 million.
“This agreement is aligned perfectly with our 2025 strategic ambitions, broadening our footprint within the African towers infrastructure market,” said Kash Pandya, Helios Towers’ CEO. “We are acquiring a market-leading independent position in Senegal with long-term contracted revenues and a clear path to value creation through additional organic tower development, uplifts in the tenancy ratio and improved operational effectiveness, all built on the foundation of 15-year contracts.”
Now, Helios is set to double down on its investment in Senegal, singing an agreement with the government to invest $200 million over five years. The government hopes that the investment in infrastructure will help expand coverage in underserved areas, as well as giving the nation’s three major telcos, Free, Orange, and Expresso, an avenue for reducing prices.
‘A company like Helios, with its capacity for investment in the sector, its best practice and operational excellence derived from around ten years’ experience in other countries in the region, can provide support to companies in the ecosystem, first and foremost the operators,’ said Helios Towers Senegal CEO Karim Ndiaye.
Currently, Helios owns around around 7,000 towers on the African continent, in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana, and South Africa. However, additional acquisitions are being made at a striking pace. Two months Helios agreed to buy Airtel Africa’s towers in Madagascar, Malawi, Chad and Gabon, with the various acquisitions expected to close by the end of 2022.
In fact, just days ago, Pandya was reported as saying that the company was “very keen on expanding” in South Africa and would “absolutely” consider bidding for more towers if they were to be put on sale. He noted that the opportunity throughout Africa remains “immense”, suggesting that the continent was “ten to fifteen years” behind the West when it came to tower sales and that Helios had a “very active M&A pipeline” as a result.
One such market waiting to be explored is the currently liberalising Ethiopia, a country that Helios Towers had shown interest in in the middle of last year, reportedly approaching potential partners to discuss a move into the country. Since then, however, the Ethiopian regulators have closed their grip on the market once again, saying that the two new telcos scheduled to receive licenses will need to lease towers from Ethio Telecom and foreign tower companies will not be allowed to enter.