Engineering a shared vision for a connected future


Hasnen Varawalla

Hasnen Varawalla, MD and Co-Head,
Investment Banking Origination,
Absa Securities United Kingdom


Absa CIB’s recent work for African telecoms giant IHS demonstrates the bank’s full-service offering, providing the client with M&A advisory, ECM services assisting their high-profile NYSE IPO, supporting them in the international bond markets and providing direct, multi-currency term financing.

Absa CIB drew on a full suite of capabilities in a recent multi-million-dollar deal for multinational telecoms infrastructure giant his Holding Limited, facilitating the company’s entry into South Africa.

Absa advised IHS on the acquisition, and sale and leaseback of 5,709 telecommunication towers from MTN in South Africa in a deal worth R6,4 billion. Through this transaction, IHS will enter South Africa and become the largest independent tower company in the country.

This acquisition follows the $378 million Initial Public Offering (“IPO”) on the New York Stock Exchange, where Absa was the only African bookrunner. The offering is amongst the largest for an African business in the US, and will act as a benchmark for future IPOs from the continent for some time.

In addition to playing a significant role in HIS’s entry into South Africa and the NYSE listing, Absa assisted the company in tapping into the international bond markets through a US dollar dominated Eurobond.

“The success of these deals is attributed to the strength of the management team and testament to our commitment to building long-term relationships with our clients and assisting them in achieving their aspirations,” Hasnen Varawalla, MD and Co-Head, Investment Banking Origination, Absa Securities United Kingdom.

“The IPO and bond offerings provides IHS access to capital from a broad base of international investors and elevates the company’s profile, acting as a catalyst for long-term growth in a sector that is essential to unlocking economic development in emerging markets and Africa, in particular.”

Driving Inclusive Growth

IHS provides the tower infrastructure for mobile networks, facilitating telecommunications coverage for 600 million people across its rapidly expanding footprint. One of the largest independent multinational tower companies in the world, its business now spans ten developing market countries.

Businesses like IHS play a vital role in providing data inclusivity and inclusive growth in Africa. “In today’s world, access to data services is as essential as the provision of electricity and water was to communities across Africa 30 or 40 years ago,” says Varawalla.

“The benefits which come from that – from education to financial inclusion and more – are enabled by the tower infrastructure across which the signals are carried. That infrastructure is now owned by IHS and we at Absa are proud to be associated with this strory.”

Flagship Event

The October IPO on the NYSE was a flagship event for both IHS and Absa. “It’s a flagship event for any African business to be listed on the world's largest stock exchange,” says Varawalla.

“The public listing and capital proceeds will facilitate and provide a means of funding the company’s strategy to increase its market share through future acquisitions and capital spending.”

The IHS the acquisition of MTN’s 5 700 South African telecoms towers was a hotly contested auction.

“IHS is one of the largest independent shared telecommunications infrastructure companies in the world and has a huge presence in Africa, and we are now bringing them into South Africa. To facilitate a series of deals like this you need a deep bench of very competent people, who can work across different products and collaborate across geographies,” says Varawalla.

Open To African Business

Each of those deals would be significant on its own. Together, they represent a landmark event in the history of African telecoms. IHS’s IPO, NYSE listing and Eurobond offerings also demonstrate an appetite for African investment, and the relevance of a Pan-African bank to bring those deals to fruition.

“It goes to show that global capital markets are open to the right kind of African businesses,” says Varawalla. “There is no shortage of opportunity in Africa.”

All that’s required is the bravery to imagine, and the will to get things done.

Hasnen Varawalla

Hasnen Varawalla, MD and Co-Head, Investment Banking Origination,
Absa Securities United Kingdom

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