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Helios Towers Finishes London Debut Strong After Muted Start

Swetha Gopinath and Loni Prinsloo

(Bloomberg) -- Helios Towers Ltd. rose 5.7% on its first day of trading after the company raised 288 million pounds ($364 million) in a long-delayed initial public offering that gives investors a foothold in Africa’s fast-growing wireless tower industry.

Shares in the company that was backed by billionaire financier George Soros priced at 115 pence apiece, the bottom of the range, before closing at 121.50 pence.

After a subdued start to the day, the shares perked up after Chief Executive Officer Kash Pandya’s comments on potentially using some of the proceeds for expansion. Helios is looking to add three new African countries to the five where it currently operates, Pandya said by phone after the initial public offering.

Shareholders including Millicom International Cellular SA and Bharti Airtel Ltd. sold down their stakes in the London IPO, with Helios settling for a market valuation of 1.2 billion pounds.

Helios has more than 6,800 towers spread across five African countries and the money raised from selling new shares will help it to roll out fourth-generation mobile services and keep pace with soaring mobile data consumption on the continent. It was originally looking to raise as much as $500 million.

Read more: Helios CEO says IPO proceeds to be used for expansion

Helios went public as many similar offerings are stumbling or being pulled. Two tech IPOs were delayed last week, citing market conditions, and yacht maker Ferretti SpA late on Monday reduced the price range for its upcoming sale.

Not everyone is getting shy: special-effects company DNEG Ltd. is exploring selling shares in London to raise 150 million pounds to fund growth, it said Tuesday.

Choppy Markets

African and Middle Eastern companies have helped to keep the London IPO market alive, although with mixed results. Airtel Africa Ltd. has lost a third of its value since listing in June.Helios already had to cancel an IPO attempt last year. It was one of three African tower firms that tried to sell stock in London or New York. The most optimistic estimates gave them a potential combined value of $15 billion before choppy markets scuppered the plans and Helios’s two peers went down other routes.

The biggest, IHS Towers, decided to raise $1.3 billion via the debt market in two offerings that will close next week. The other, Eaton Towers Ltd., is being bought by American Tower Corp.

Following the IPO, Millicom holds a 17% stake in Helios, according to the prospectus. Quantum Strategic Partners Ltd is right behind with a 16.45% stake. Quantum’s investment in Helios is managed by Newlight Partners LP, which was spun off from George Soros’s family office in 2018. The firm is led by Ravi Yadav and David Wassong, who has a seat on Helios’ board.

Helios serves carriers including Airtel Africa, MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. It’s the only independent tower operator in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, has operations in Ghana and launched in South Africa this year.

(Updates with trading close and CEO interview.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Swetha Gopinath in London at sgopinath12@bloomberg.net;Loni Prinsloo in Johannesburg at lprinsloo3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Penty at rpenty@bloomberg.net, Thomas Pfeiffer, Kasper Viita

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