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

7 Jun 2016

State-owned cellco Saudi Telecom Company (STC) is mulling the sale of its telecom towers as a means to diversify revenues and improve efficiency, Bloomberg writes, citing CEO Khaled Bin Hussain Biyari. Under the plan, STC would spin off its towers into a new entity, which would then sell off the portfolio. ‘We are seriously considering it, we are doing our internal assessment in terms of what value it will bring us,’ the official explained, adding: ‘It’s not about the money. It’s about creating efficiency in operation.’ As previously noted by CommsUpdate, STC’s rivals Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi Arabia are also looking to sell off their tower assets.

India’s newest cellco, Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL) – which plans to launch commercial mobile services by the end of the year – is in talks to lease more tower sites from Indus Towers and American Tower Corp (ATC) to plug gaps in its urban networks, the Economic Times cites three people familiar with the matter as saying. According to the sources, the operator needs to add between 15,000 and 60,000 tenancies to its existing agreements to meet its launch coverage goals. The sources also claimed that RJIL was pushing hard for discounted prices, but with little success, as the towercos understand that the cellco has ‘neither the time nor financials for a private build out.’ To date, RJIL has already signed deals to lease access from Indus and ATC, as well as Bharti Infratel and Reliance Infratel.

UK-based tower group Eaton Towers has signed an agreement to sell its entire tower portfolio in South Africa, consisting of around 300 towers with 600 tenants, to ATC South Africa for an undisclosed sum. Eaton Towers CEO Terry Rhodes commented on the transaction: ‘The sale, which represents about 5% of Eaton Towers’ total business, will allow us to invest further in the countries where Eaton Towers are market leaders and expand into new markets in Africa.’ A statement from Eaton added that ATC was the largest independent tower operator in South Africa, but the market remains dominated by telecom providers and broadband organisations, which own more than 90% of the roughly 30,000 towers in the country.

Spanish-based tower group Cellnex has agreed to acquire 100% of Protelindo Netherlands – the Dutch subsidiary of Indonesia’s Profesional Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Protelindo) – for EUR109 million (USD123.76 million). Protelindo operates 261 sites in the Netherlands, 80% of which are located close to the main corridors, whilst the remaining 20% cover rural and urban areas, and the towers have an average tenancy ratio of 1.88. Once consolidated into Cellnex, the Spanish firm expects them to contribute EBITDA of around EUR8 million in 2017.

China Tower Company, the world’s largest tower operator, is planning to launch an initial public offering (IPO) next year, the South China Morning Post cites China Mobile’s VP Sha Yuejia as saying. The official noted that although there are ‘many conditions’ for the company to meet before it goes public, the firm is expected to list in 2017. China Tower was created to hold and manage the tower assets of all three of the nation’s cellcos, and now manages more than 1.55 million tower sites, valued at more than CNY270 billion (USD41.09 billion). In February this year, China Tower’s general manager, Tong Jielu was quoted as saying that the proceeds of the IPO would be used to diversify the company’s business into ventures such as charging stations for electric cars.

Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica is reportedly preparing to launch an IPO of its new infrastructure arm, Telxius, Bloomberg writes, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The IPO could raise EUR4 billion to EUR5 billion for the group, which would use the funds to reduce its debt after the sale of its UK arm, O2, was blocked by regulators. The unnamed sources said that CaixaBank and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria have been selected as global coordinators for the IPO, alongside Goldman Sachs Group and JPMorgan Chase, whilst Mediobanca, BNP Paribas, HSBC Holdings, Banco Santander, Citigroup and UBS Group will act as joint bookrunners.

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