Soros-backed private equity firm in Nigerian telecoms dispute

Rowena Mason|The Telegraph

A private equity firm backed by George Soros, Lord Rothschild and former US defence secretary Madeleine Albright is struggling to get paid for its flagship $250m (£154m) telecoms contract in Nigeria.

The London-based firm, Helios Investment Partners, run by two former Texas Pacific Group executives, started off building and maintaining telecom towers across Africa seven years ago.

It secured capital to construct 360 mobile phone towers in Nigeria through a company called Helios Towers from various investors, including $50m from CDC, a UK government development fund.

The business is considered a model of successful private equity investment in Africa, securing a $250m package led by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. On the back of this, it attracted Mr Soros, Lord Rothschild and Ms Albright to invest in a separate $350m Helios Towers Africa fund to “replicate the success of Nigeria”.

However, this $250m contract is now under threat after the mobile phone company that rents the towers claimed the agreement is invalid.

Multi-Links, owned by South Africa’s Telkom, told Helios Towers that it is under no obligation to pay rent or a termination fee years after the masts were built. The company is about three years into its 10-year contracts.

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