The Business Times

Vodafone to raise 2.58b euros from German tower unit IPO

Published Wed, Mar 10, 2021 · 05:50 AM

London

VODAFONE Group is looking to raise as much as 2.58 billion euros (S$4.1 billion) from an initial public offering of its European mobile-phone towers unit in Frankfurt, in what will be one of the region's biggest stock market listings this year.

The UK telecommunications giant plans to sell 88.9 million shares in the unit at 22.50 euros to 29 euros apiece, according to a statement on Tuesday. At the top of the price range, Vantage would be the biggest European IPO since InPost's in January.

Two investment funds, Digital Colony and RRJ, agreed to buy 500 million euros and 450 million euros of stock, respectively, in the offering, which will run through March 17. The new stock will start trading on March 18. The IPO values Vantage at as much as 14.7 billion euros. Proceeds will go towards paying down the parent company's debt pile, Vodafone has said.

Vodafone and other European carriers, hit by increasing competition, regulations and the Covid-19 pandemic, are looking to squeeze value from their mast and fibre assets. The push to roll out fifth-generation networks is also driving demand for more tower capacity, fuelling a wave of consolidation and restructuring.

And for yield-hungry investors, these assets promise steady returns as tower companies typically sign long-term contracts, linked to inflation, for the space they rent out to mobile operators. Vantage plans to pay out 60 per cent of recurring free cash flow annually in dividends, and intends to distribute 280 million euros in July for this financial year, the company said last month.

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Still, mobile carriers looking to rent capacity from Vantage are direct competitors of the tower company's majority shareholder and main customer across geographies: Vodafone. Independent European mast operators like Cellnex Telecom don't have this drawback.

At the high end of the price range, the IPO would raise 2.58 billion euros. Vodafone has the option to sell another 22.2 million shares, while the underwriters can sell another 13.3 million shares to cover possible over-allotments.

If all of those shares were sold at the top of the range, the offering would raise 3.6 billion euros.

Vantage's blockbuster offering will put Germany's IPO market on track for its best year since 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

And a slew of other offerings are being considered, ranging from units being carved out of large conglomerates such as Volkswagen and Daimler to many potential listings from younger companies.

Language app Babbel and ProSiebenSat.1 Media-owned dating platform ParshipMeet are eyeing IPOs, Bloomberg News reported last month.

Listings for open-source software developer SUSE, online eyewear retailer Mister Spex, cybersecurity provider Utimaco, prosthetic limb maker Ottobock and e-commerce site About You are also said to be in the works. BLOOMBERG

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