Helios IPO: Leasing telecoms towers is the next big business in Africa
A firm called Helios Towers is the latest owner of telecoms towers in sub-Saharan Africa planning to go public. Helios is looking to raise over $2 billion on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges for the 6,500-plus towers that it operates in four African markets. It joins fellow tower firms Eaton and IHS in tapping the public markets this year.The business model of these tower companies, or towercos, in industry parlance, is to create a portfolio of properties in a region and then lease space on the towers to telco operators. Towercos in Africa, as the research firm Tower Xchange notes (pdf), tend to be “full service” outfits, offering power, maintenance, and other services, unlike their counterparts in mature markets like the US, which manage just the real estate aspects of the site, known as the “steel and grass” model.