Telkom to be sued by private equity group Helios

A Nigerian firm backed by private equity group Helios Investment Partners and South Africa’s Shanduka Group is suing Telkom for at least $251-million, a move that could complicate Telkom’s planned sale of its Nigerian unit.

According to court documents obtained by Reuters, Helios Towers Nigeria, which builds and rents towers used by mobile operators, is suing Telkom in the High Court of Lagos State, claiming the South African firm walked away from a 10-year rental agreement after just three years.

Helios Towers Nigeria is seeking $251-million plus interest, and an injunction preventing Telkom from selling its Nigerian unit until the dispute is settled, the documents show.

Telkom said last month it planned to sell part of the money-losing unit, Multi-Links, for $52 million to Visafone Communications.

A spokesperson for Multi-Links, Ijeoma Abazie, said in an emailed statement there were no injunctions currently in place on any of the parties.

Multi-Links has filed a civil action against Helios in the Lagos court, claiming non-compliance with Nigerian law, she said.

A spokesperson for Telkom declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for investment firm Shanduka.

Multi-Links, one of only four mobile operators using the CDMA technology platform in a market dominated by the rival GSM standard, has been a problem in recent years for Telkom, which itself is fighting to turn around its business.

Shares of Telkom ended down 2.4% at R36.80 on Monday, following a report on the suit by Britain’s Telegraph on Sunday.

London-based Helios is an Africa-focused private equity firm with more than $1-billion in capital commitments.

Another firm run by the group, Helios Towers Africa, is backed by several major investors including George Soros and former United States secretary of state Madeline Albright.

Shanduka Group is a black-owned South African investment firm.—Reuters

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