Telkom, the number three South African telecommunications operator has enjoyed a positive response to news that it plans to spin off its masts and towers business in separate listings on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
Towers and masts are infrastructure used by mobile operators to extend telecommunications coverage and high-speed data services such as 4G and 5G to customers.
They are costly to run for mobile operators, given the need to provide them with power and security for their sites. Adding to the cost base for mobile operators is that towers and masts require heavy investments – mainly for their maintenance and upgrades.
The company’s shares rose sharply on Tuesday after the announcement.
According to Reuters, Telkom, which spun off its telecom towers, masts and some related real estate into a separate unit in 2017, has been exploring options to unlock value in the unit, which is called Swiftnet.
Swiftnet operates 6,225 masts and towers and is South Africa’s largest independently run tower portfolio. Telkom says that the listing will unlock value for the company.
However, the final decision has not yet been made. The company’s board will decide whether to go ahead with the separate listing by next March.
That said, it’s hard to believe the company will change its mind given the strength of the masts and towers division and its contribution to the overall valuation of the Telkom business.
And the listings may not end there as Telkom’s wholesale division Openserve is likely to be the next of its units to be listed on the JSE.
Is Telkom SA Following IHST?
By coincidence, another big tower name, IHS Towers, which is partially owned by Africa telecoms giant MTN, is now planning Africa’s biggest initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) after calling it off in 2018.
The timing, number of shares to be offered and price range of the proposed offering have not yet been determined.
However, the delay may have benefited IHS Towers, a major independent owner, operator and developer of shared telecommunications infrastructure. The business of building and managing mobile telecommunications infrastructure for mobile network operators seems to be booming of late.