IHS set for biggest African IPO in U.S

IHS Holdings Limited, which has operations in Nigeria and other African countries, is reportedly seeking the biggest Initial Public Offering (IPO) of an African company in the United States.

The wireless tower’s operator has engaged Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase and Co as global coordinators for the listing that could give Africa’s largest operator of wireless towers a valuation that could be as much $7 billion. The Mauritius-based firm is working towards a New York IPO as soon as the first half of the year.

While Citigroup and JPMorgan have top spots on the IPO, other lenders will be included to be part of the syndicate. This was disclosed by an official of the company, who wished to remain anonymous, as no final decision has been taken and the timeline could be pushed back, depending on market conditions.

The tower operator would prefer a U.S. listing to London because some of the largest tower companies such as American Tower Corp. and Crown Holdings Inc. are all based in U.S. and trade at higher valuation multiples. At a $7 billion valuation, it is going to be the biggest listing by an African company in the U.S. according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg, IHS, whose owners include South African Telecoms giant, MTN Group Limited and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., started reviving work on a share sale late last year after scrapping plans back in 2018 due to uncertainty around a presidential election in Nigeria, which happens to be its main market.

With the company expanding its network of about 24,000 towers as growing African populations demand cheaper and faster mobile connections, it took advantage of opportunities in the debt market for $1.3 billion last year.

The Chief Executive Officer of IHS, Sam Darwish, in an interview last year, had disclosed the company’s plans to gain entrance into new markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia ahead of potential attempt to sell shares in either New York or London.

About IHS: It is the largest mobile telecommunications infrastructure provider in Africa, Europe and the Middle East by tower count and the third-largest independent multinational tower company globally. Founded by Sam Darwish in Lagos, in 2001, the company specializes in building towers and managing sites for mobile network operators. It has operations in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Zambia and Rwanda.

Following the recent acquisitions of tower portfolios of MTN and Etisalat in Nigeria, IHS owns and manages over 23,000 towers in Africa.

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