April 14, 2019,   9:41 AM

Middle East Expansion Ahead For Africa’s Largest Tower Operator

Abisola Owolawi

I write about business, entrepreneurship, innovation, wealth and culture with a focus on global impact. Innovative, groundbreaking ideas and the structures that drive them over time, inform my subject choices. I cover industries that span manufacturing, service, technology, entertainment, healthcare and aviation among others, across Africa for Forbes Middle East. I have previously worked as Forbes Africa’s West Africa Correspondent, a wealth contributor on the annual Forbes rich list and as a CNBC Africa business contributor. FULL BIO

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Africa’s largest telecommunications tower operator, IHS Towers, plans to enter new markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia ahead of a potential attempt to sell shares in either New York or London.

IHS is looking to build on two recent deals in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to Group Chief Executive officer, Sam Darwish.

The company had recently announced an agreement with Mobile Telecommunications Company, Saudi Arabia (Zain KSA) to sell and lease back passive physical infrastructure of its mobile tower portfolio to IHS. Zain KSA has approximately 8,100 mobile telecommunication sites in prime and strategic locations across the kingdom.  

Following shelved plans for an initial public offering last year, the foreign expansion could help boost IHS’ appeal to investors. With a Mauritius base and operations in Nigeria and across Africa, IHS aimed to raise about $1 billion in New York.

“This agreement is another important step in our strategy to apply the expertise and capabilities that we have developed over the past 18 years to additional global markets. We are very excited by the growth prospects for wireless data and infrastructure in the Middle East and this news is a further example of our strong commitment to the region. We look forward to strengthening the partnership with Zain to provide customers with our high-quality services and innovative solution,” said Darwish.

IHS’ strategy includes plans to connect towers with fiber networks with the group currently running a pilot project in Nigeria in order to ensure a hold on the upcoming generation connectivity growth.