IHS Holding, the global telecom infrastructure giant led by American-Nigerian telecom tycoon Sam Darwish, has presented enhanced commercial terms to MTN Nigeria for the lease of 2,500 towers that were recently awarded to American Tower Corporation (ATC) — in a strategic move to avert potential network disruption in Nigeria.
The towers in question were part of a leasing agreement set to expire in 2024 and 2025, a deal that MTN Nigeria disclosed had been granted to ATC Nigeria after a competitive bidding process. The South African-owned MTN Group aims to diversify its tower portfolio and unlock substantial network cost efficiencies through this arrangement.
IHS steps up to keep Nigeria connected: Matching offers to secure MTN towers
Darwish, IHS Towers chairman and CEO, disclosed that while these towers represent a small fraction of IHS’s total tenancies, the company is willing to match or improve upon ATC’s terms. Darwish stated, “IHS has offered improved commercial terms on the 2,500 towers to close the gap (between the offers) as our main aim is to prevent network disruption in Nigeria.” However, specific details regarding the proposed terms were not disclosed.
MTN Nigeria, in response, asserted that the agreement with ATC is final, affirming its commitment to engage with IHS on future opportunities — including the renewal of other tower leases. A spokesperson for MTN stated, “Our preference is always for bilateral renewal, subject to competitive pricing and terms. In this instance, the ATC proposal was superior.”
IHS loses ground as ATC gains 13 percent of tower portfolio
Founded in 2001 by Darwish, IHS has solidified its position as the largest telecom infrastructure group in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Globally, the company ranks as the third-largest independent multinational tower company based on tower count. Darwish, a top figure in the African telecom industry, holds a substantial 4.17-percent stake in the group, equivalent to 13,958,158 ordinary shares.
IHS Holding currently owns 16,000 towers in Nigeria, with MTN leasing 14,600 of them. The recent deal with ATC means that 13 percent of MTN’s tower portfolio is now held by ATC, while the majority, 80 percent remains with IHS. Darwish’s announcement follows IHS’ September revelation of plans to deploy 750 new cell towers across Brazil in the same year, highlighting the company’s dedication to expanding its global footprint, particularly in Latin America.
However, concerns loom over IHS as industry analysts speculate on potential contract losses amid MTN Nigeria’s ongoing review of other tower contracts set for renewal. The remaining tower leases with IHS are slated to expire between 2025 and 2029, raising questions about the stability of IHS’s foothold in the Nigerian market.