IHS wants to preserve independence from MTN

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 22 Jun 2023
An MTN cell tower in Soweto. (Photograph by Lesley Moyo)
An MTN cell tower in Soweto. (Photograph by Lesley Moyo)

Tower infrastructure provider IHS has indicated it declined mobile operator MTN’s demands to amend shareholder voting rights at the firm.

IHS says it wants to maintain its independence from MTN, which is Africa’s largest mobile operator.

This, after MTN this week issued a statement, accusing IHS of wilfully breaching the shareholders’ agreement and articles over voting powers.

The mobile operator was responding to media reports regarding the IHS annual general meeting (AGM) held on 7 June.

MTN, through its subsidiary Mobile Telephone Networks (Netherlands), holds approximately 85.2 million (26%) of IHS shares.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported the IHS annual meeting devolved into a tense standoff over investor power, after the tower operator dismissed demands from two of its largest stakeholders.

It added that Wendel and MTN, which together own about 45% of the company, argued that all shareholders with at least a 10% stake should have the power to nominate board members.

MTN, this week, requested the IHS board to call an extraordinary general meeting of the IHS shareholders in order to consider its voting proposal.

In a statement to ITWeb, IHS says: “The IHS Towers board unanimously determined that the recent shareholder proposal requested by MTN was not in the best interests of IHS Towers as a whole, or our collective shareholder base and, in accordance with our articles and shareholder agreement, declined the request to submit the proposal to shareholders at our annual general meeting.”

According to the UK-based tower company, MTN’s voting rights have been capped at 20% since 2014 per agreement with MTN to preserve IHS Towers’ independence and account for the fact that MTN is IHS Towers’ largest customer.

“MTN does not have the right to call an extraordinary general meeting under our articles or shareholder agreement.

“IHS Towers remains focused on increasing shareholder value and will continue to engage with MTN, as we do with all our shareholders.”

In June last year, IHS Towers completed the acquisition of over 5 700 MTN towers in SA, in a deal that saw the New York Stock Exchange-listed tower company fork out R6.4 billion.

IHS Towers now owns 70% of MTN SA’s towers business, with the remaining 30% owned by a B-BBEE consortium.

Under the deal, IHS Towers also provides power management services to MTN SA on approximately 13 000 sites, including the acquisition portfolio.