MTN's head office in Johannesburg. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
MTN's head office in Johannesburg. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

MTN Group could cash in from an initial public offering (IPO) of Africa’s largest telecommunication towers company selling down a stake valued by the wireless carrier at about R27bn.

IHS Towers, of which MTN owns about 29%, is planning an IPO in New York, people familiar with the matter said in 2017. If the tower operator went ahead with the share sale and the valuation was appropriate, MTN will look to sell out, chief financial officer Ralph Mupita said.

"It is not strategic to lock up so much capital," he said. Although MTN’s stake in IHS Towers is important, it has been earmarked by the company as an asset for sale.

IHS, Helios Towers Africa and Eaton Towers are all looking to take advantage of high industry valuations to sell shares and fund expansion, people familiar with the situation said in November.

Helios confirmed the plans earlier in March, saying it would seek an IPO in London and Johannesburg, and that it expected at least 25% of its shares to be freely traded after the sale.

IHS Towers declined to comment.

MTN, Africa’s largest cellphone company by sales, planned to cut its debt, Mupita said. Borrowings rose to R57bn in 2017 from R52bn in 2016. The shares rose 1.2% to R33.60 as of 3.30pm in Johannesburg, valuing the company at R52bn.

IHS is owned by French investment firm Wendel, Goldman Sachs and MTN.

Bloomberg

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