Vantage Towers, the mobile masts company spun out of Vodafone Group, plans to float in Frankfurt by the end of March in a deal that could value it at up to €18 billion, making it Europe's largest listing so far this year. 

Duesseldorf, Germany-headquartered Vantage operates 82,000 towers across 10 countries, where it is usually the leading or second largest supplier. 

Germany is its largest market, which is one of the reasons for the venue of the IPO.  

Vodafone said today it would sell a "meaningful minority" stake to create a liquid market in Vantage Towers' shares. 

It will use proceeds to cut debt, which totals around €69 billion, according to Refinitiv data. No new shares will be sold, meaning Vantage will not make money from the deal. 

People familiar with the matter said stock worth about €3 billion would be sold, possibly giving the company a valuation of €15-18 billion. 

That would make Vantage the largest European listing of the year in a busy season that has seen $12 billion Polish firm InPost, $10 billion German used-car trading platform AUTO1 and $5 billion UK boot brand Dr Martens join stock markets. 

Vantage would also be Germany's largest listing since energy group Innogy's 20 billion-euro debut in 2016. 

Vantage's CEO Vivek Badrinath said growth in data traffic, the roll out of 5G and tougher coverage requirements, for example in Germany and Britain, underpinned its prospects. 

"These three factors will drive demand for new tenancies and new tower sites," he said, adding he aimed to increase the average number of mobile operators using each mast from 1.39 more than 1.5. 

The value of mobile infrastructure - masts, energy supply and back haul connections - has surged as investors look for secure long-term income. 

Vodafone rival Orange launched its own towers unit this month, while Spain's Cellnex - Europe's biggest towers company - is raising €7 billion for expansion. 

Vantage will also have €1 billion of leverage for deals, Badrinath said, and the ability to issue more equity. 

Its focus on listing meant it was not in talks at the moment, he said, "but the market is moving, so we expect that there'll be action in the latter part of the year for sure". 

Vantage said late last year it expected to report pro forma adjusted core earnings of up to €540m in the financial year to the end of March. 

Rivals such as Cellnex, American Tower, Crown Castle and SBA Communications trade at 25-30 times their core earnings. 

Vantage said it would pay 60% of recurring cash flow in dividends, and it intended to pay out 280 million euros this financial year. 

It is on track for a leverage ratio of four times core earnings at the end of March, allowing it to balance investment, acquisitions and returns, it added.