Helios Towers buys 950 Congolese masts

The PE-backed company will lease the towers back to India’s Airtel after completion of the deal.

Helios Towers Africa has agreed to purchase about 950 telecom towers from Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator, in the Democratic Republic of Congo for an undisclosed amount.

The deal, which includes towers under construction, will boost Helios’ unit count in Africa to more than 6,500 masts. The divestment is meant to cut Airtel’s $12.6 billion debt pile and reduce its capital expenditure.

The company will retain full access to the towers from Helios Towers under a long-term lease agreement following completion of the transaction, which remains subject to regulatory clearance.

The operator has divested towers on the continent before, having offloaded more than 1,100 units in Zambia and Rwanda to Lagos-based IHS Holding in December 2014. It had previously sold more than 4,800 masts in Nigeria to NASDAQ-listed American Tower Corp for $1.05 billion.

Last month, Helios Towers’ Tanzanian arm raised $95 million through a syndicated term loan from a club of domestic and international backers. The liquidity was earmarked for the financing of the company’s expansion efforts in the Eastern African country.

Backed by Helios Investment Partners, Quantum Strategic Partners, Albright Capital Management, RIT Capital Partners, the International Finance Corporation and Millicom, Helios Towers Africa claims to be the largest independent tower company on the continent.