Helios investment in Kenyan telecoms sector

Pan-African private equity firm Helios Investment Partners has announced that it is actively looking to increase its presence in Kenya by entering the country’s telecoms sector. The news coincides with reports that Helios has raised USD900 million from investors in order to target new investments. Thus far, Helios’ involvement within Africa’s telecoms sector has been limited to the establishment of Helios Towers Africa, which builds and operates tower businesses across Africa, and the acquisitions of tower portfolios in Ghana, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The firm’s press statement reads: ‘In line with investment strategies in Helios’ previous fund, the new fund, Helios Investors II (Helios II), will invest USD25 million to USD250 million of equity per transaction in various forms, including business formations, growth equity investments, structured investments in listed entities and large leveraged acquisitions. The fund’s investments will be focused on high-growth sectors which have been deregulated, are core to the economy and are sectors in which the firm has particular expertise’. Going forward, telecoms is viewed as a core interest for Helios, which has a preference for sectors with ‘high-growth, regulatory liberalisation, decreasing parastatal activity and minimal requirements for daily operational contacts with government agencies’.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Kenya is currently home to four mobile phone operators: Safaricom (40% owned by Vodafone), Telkom Kenya (85% owned by France Telecom), Airtel Kenya (60% owned by Bharti Airtel) and Essar Telekom Kenya (70% owned by the Essar Group). Last week it was reported that the Essar Group intended to sell its majority stake in ETK, indicating that the telecoms sector was no longer a core strategic interest. A USD300 million price-tag was mooted for the cellco, but Essar subsequently denied the reports, reaffirming its commitment to the Kenyan wireless market.