Tower Talk: a guide to the week’s major cell site developments

5 Apr 2016

Indonesia’s XL Axiata has signed an agreement to sell 2,500 of its telecom towers to Profesional Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Protelindo) for IDR3.57 trillion (USD267.75 million), Reuters reports, citing a stock exchange filing from the company. Under the agreement XL Axiata will be the anchor tenant on 2,432 of the towers for ten years. The deal is expected to be finalised by 30 June 2016. Protelindo, which was established in 2003, owns and operates more than 12,000 towers in Indonesia.

Malaysia’s second largest cellco by subscribers DiGi Telecommunications has signed a collaboration agreement with infrastructure provider edotco Malaysia. Under the agreement the operator will gain access to edotco’s more than 3,600 sites, as well as new built-to-suit sites, to accelerate its network expansion programme. The five-year pact will also see the pair maximise the deployment of shared sites, helping lower operational costs and reducing their impact on the environment.

US-based Phoenix Tower International (PTI) has completed its acquisition of 145 wireless communication tower sites as well as marketing rights for more than 400 sites in the Dominican Republic from cellco Viva (Trilogy Dominicana) via its local subsidiary Phoenix Tower Dominicana. Financial details of the transaction have not been made public. PTI CEO Dagan Kasavana commented: ‘We are excited to grow our investment in Dominican Republic wireless infrastructure and look forward to working with Viva to enhance their network in the Dominican Republic, as well as the other operators, as they further their network build-outs.’ PTI and its affiliate Phoenix Tower do Brasil (PTB) currently own and operate wireless infrastructure in Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, the US and Brazil. This latest acquisition brings PTI and PTB’s combined tower count to over 2,000 sites across the Americas, the company has noted.

Movistar Chile has announced plans to transfer 328 towers to sister company Telxius, the global infrastructure management firm established by its Spanish parent company Telefonica Group earlier this year. Diario Financiero writes that the towers are valued at CLP7.85 billion (USD11.28 million), but represent just 0.56% of the cellco’s infrastructure assets. The deal does not include telecommunications equipment, antennas or electronics, and Movistar notes that it will keep 99.4% of its assets, and all current financial obligations. The move is intended to help cut CAPEX for future commercial deployments and allow the provider to focus on its core businesses.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Reuters reports that Telefonica Brasil (Vivo), the country’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, has sold 1,655 cell towers to Towerco LatAm Brasil for BRL760 million (USD212.6 million). In a securities filing published late last week, the Brazilian company clarified the buyer is a unit of Spanish parent company Telefonica. The decision to sell the towers was to ‘optimise the company’s allocation of capital,’ the filing noted.

Ahmad Farroukh, the CEO of Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) has informed Bloomberg that the wireless provider has received a number of offers for its tower portfolio in Saudi Arabia. All three of Saudi Arabia’s wireless providers are currently looking at offloading their tower assets, with Mobily expecting to raise up to USD2 billion from the sale of its roughly 10,000 sites. Whilst the operator has received ‘certain indicative offers’, Mr Farroukh pointed out that a deal would not be without its difficulties: ‘It is a complicated thing. You have to go to each and every [one] of our 10,000 sites, negotiate the rent with 10,000 landlords and have the consent for them to move to the new tower company.’ As previously reported by TeleGeography’s Tower Talk, Digital Bridge Holdings is among the lead bidders for Mobily’s towers, with its offer reportedly backed by state-owned *Saudi Arabian Oil Co*, known as *Aramco*, and emerging markets-focused buyout firm *Abraaj Group*.

In the US Communications Sales and Leasing (CS&L) has agreed to acquire 32 wireless towers owned by its former parent Windstream Holdings, along with operating rights to 49 towers previously conveyed to it in its spin-off from Windstream. Further, the deal will grant CS&L the right to construct and operate wireless towers on around 1,000 properties currently leased exclusively to Windstream. The transaction will cost CS&L approximately USD3 million and is expected to be closed in April 2016.

Indonesian tower firms Tower Bersama Infrastructure (TBIG) and Solusi Tunas Pratama (STP) have announced their results for 2015, with both firms reporting revenue growth for the year. Most notable was STP, which booked turnover of IDR1.78 trillion compared to IDR1.07 trillion in 2014. As a result of the revenue growth, STP reversed losses of IDR380 billion in 2014 to record net profit of IDR137 billion. For its part, meanwhile, Towers Bersama booked revenue growth of 3% year-on-year to IDR3.42 trillion. At the end of December 2015, TBIG had a total of 19,796 tenants on 12,389 sites, comprising 11,389 telecommunication towers, 936 shelter-only sites and 64 DAS (distributed antenna system) networks. With 18,796 total tower tenants, TBIG claimed a tenancy ratio of 1.65. Commenting on TBIG’s results, CEO Hardi Wijaya Liong said: ‘In 2015, we organically added 675 telecommunication towers and 803 collocations to our existing portfolio. Although we added 1,488 organic tenants during the year, our net tenants added was lower, primarily due to our decision to no longer recognise Bakrie Telecom tenancies from the start of 2015.’

Finally, Pillarstone, the investment vehicle owned by US private equity firm KKR, is set to acquire a majority stake in indebted Italian telecoms infrastructure firm SIRTI by the end of this month, two sources close to the matter have informed Reuters. According to the news agency, Pillarstone will buy a controlling stake in SIRTI from Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo, which owns around 27% of the firm, and a group of other investors, including private equity firms Clessidra and 21 Investimenti. SIRTI, which was founded in 1921, builds and manages telecoms networks and is still a supplier to Telecom Italia, which owned the company between 1997 and 2000.

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