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Helios keen to buy more telephone towers in South Africa, CEO says

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Tuesday, 4 May 2021 11:29

Helios Towers aims to free up mobile phone operators to concentrate on services. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Helios Towers is keen to expand its presence in South Africa by buying more telephone towers, CEO Kash Pandya tells The Africa Report.

The company would “absolutely” consider bidding for more South African towers if they are put on sale, Pandya says. Helios is “very keen on expanding” in South Africa.

Helios, which trades on the FTSE 250 index in London, counts Helios Investment Partners, Albright Capital and the International Finance Corporation among its investors.

Its sale and leaseback model in Africa aims at allowing wireless operators to outsource non-core tower activities and focus on improving their services. Helios entered South Africa in 2019 through a partnership with network solutions business Vulatel, and bought SA Towers, with a pipeline of 500 site locations, the same year.

Power management is an issue for mobile network operators (MNOs) in South Africa, given the risk of outages imposed by state-owned utility Eskom. Helios offers power as a service, providing a hybrid solar backup power supply with diesel generation as the final fall-back.

  • “Power uptime is critical for our customers,” Pandya says. “We don’t worry about Eskom, but our clients do.”
  • Africa is “ten to fifteen years” behind the West in selling off its telecom towers, Pandya says.
  • Tower companies own about 70% of phone towers globally, compared with about 27% in Africa, he  says.
  • The opportunity in Africa remains “immense” and Helios has “a very active M&A pipeline.”