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Tower Talk: a guide to the latest major cell site developments

26 Jul 2016

Spanish passive infrastructure firm Cellnex has signed an agreement to acquire 230 towers from French cellco Bouygues Telecom for EUR80 million (USD88.6 million). In addition, the deal includes a second phase which could see Cellnex take over up to 270 additional towers from the operator. The agreement also features a 20-year contract for Cellnex to provide services to Bouygues Telecom. Commenting on the deal, Cellnex’s CEO, Tobias Martinez said: ‘the agreement with Bouygues Telecom is the beginning of a long-term collaboration with this operator… We trust that this agreement opens the door to extend it in the future to other areas such as construction of new towers on demand (Build to Suit), or the deployment of new technologies based on the “small cells” for the mobile broadband extension. This deal strengthens our European scope and thus our ability for building a partnership with customers operating in different European markets to whom we can offer telecom connectivity solutions.’

In a related development, Cellnex is seen as a likely bidder for French tower firm FPS Towers, which is being sold off by its owner Antin Infrastructure Partners, Reuters reports. A prospectus was sent out to potential buyers earlier this month, and the sale is expected to raise up to EUR1.0 billion.

China’s three mobile network operators – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – have each signed five-year lease agreements with joint venture infrastructure provider China Tower. The South China Morning Post writes that the deals are expected to generate savings of CNY2.4 billion (USD358.8 million), CNY1.9 billion and CNY1.8 billion this year for Mobile, Unicom and Telecom respectively.

Helios Towers DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) subsidiary of Helios Towers Africa has completed a USD105 million upsizing of its syndicated term loan facility. The loan facility will be used to finance its acquisition of Bharti Airtel’s tower portfolio and to fund organic growth, including the construction of new towers and investment in new power technologies, as the company looks to reduce its reliance on diesel fuel.

Russian wireless provider Tele2 Russia is involved in talks with investors regarding the potential sale of its tower portfolio, Telecom Daily writes, citing unnamed sources close to the deal. Tele2 is looking for at least RUB25 billion (USD385.65 million) for its roughly 10,000 towers, and is negotiating with three prospective buyers.

Indian tower providers Indus Towers and Bharti Infratel have begun rationalising the rates they charge, so that all cellcos will pay the same rate at each location. To that end, the Economic Times cites a source close to the development as saying that the towercos have frozen the annual rent escalation for Bharti Airtel in many areas, whilst the fees paid by Idea Cellular will continue to rise until the rates paid by each cellco reach parity. Indus Towers is jointly owned by Idea, Airtel and Vodafone India, whilst Infratel is owned by Airtel. The decision to alter the rates was prompted by concerns from cellcos that the tower providers were charging competitors different rates for tenancies at the same location. The new approach may cause problems for new customers looking to negotiate lower rates for larger number tenancies.

The Delhi High Court has stayed a series of orders calling for Indian cellco Videocon Telecommunications Ltd (VTL) to pay INR4.5 billion (USD66.96 million) to four infrastructure providers until the court issues a final decision on the matter. The Hindustan Times reports that the operator incurred losses in 2013/14 and 2014/15 and in March this year agreed to sell its 1800MHz spectrum to Bharti Airtel for INR44.3 billion, with the intention of using the funds to pay off its creditors. Through late April and early May, however, the court issued a series of orders instructing VTL to pay a total of INR4.5 billion to American Towers Corporation India (ATC India), Viom Networks (now part of ATC India), Tower Vision India and Indus Towers, after the tower providers approached the court to secure their payment from the proceeds of the spectrum sale. VTL challenged the orders, noting that they sought to give precedence for repayment to the infrastructure providers over a consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India (SBI) which held a prior right to be paid from the sale proceeds.

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