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

18 Oct 2016

Reliance Communications (RCOM), India’s fourth largest cellco by subscribers, has signed a non-binding agreement with Brookfield Infrastructure Group regarding the sale of its roughly 45,000 towers and related infrastructure for INR110 billion (USD1.64 billion) the Economic Times writes. Under the terms of the deal, the relevant assets would be transferred from RCOM’s infrastructure arm Reliance Infratel to a new special purpose vehicle (SPV) that would be split 51/49 between Brookfield and RCOM. The pact would also see RCOM stay on as an anchor tenant on the towers on a long-term basis. The cellco intends to use the proceeds of the sale to reduce its debt.

In a similar development, Idea Cellular, another Indian cellco, is reportedly considering reorganising its infrastructure and tower business. The operator currently owns 11,000 captive towers via its wholly owned subsidiary Idea Cellular Infrastructure Services (ICISL), as well as a 16% stake in Indus Towers, a joint venture tower company with fellow mobile providers Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India, via its 86% share in Aditya Birla Telecom (ABTL). Several options are currently under consideration, the Economic Times reports, citing several unnamed sources. One solution would see the cellco offload 49% of the shares in ICISL and its entire stake in Indus. Another option, meanwhile, proposed merging ICISL into ABTL to create a single entity to control the operator’s towers, and then selling a 49% stake in the enlarged company.

Spanish infrastructure group Cellnex Telecom is continuing its acquisitive streak, bidding for French mobile towers being sold by Paris-based Antin Infrastructure Partners the group’s CEO Tobias Martinez told Bloomberg. Further, the official noted that Cellnex would consider buying a stake in Telxius, Telefonica’s infrastructure division, which owns tower and submarine cable assets. Telefonica recently shelved its plans to launch and IPO for the unit, and is now reportedly considering selling stakes in the business. Regarding Antin’s towers, Mr Martinez said that the sale was still at an early stage, adding: ‘That’s a very attractive portfolio in a market like France, and we are in a competitive process.’

A new challenger in the form of Service Telecom has entered talks with Tele2 Russia regarding the acquisition of the operator’s roughly 10,000 towers. According to Vedomosti, Service Telecom will have to compete with the existing three to four potential buyers already involved in negotiations with the cellco, including consortia featuring Russian Towers, VTB Capital, Vertical, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and several unnamed foreign operators.

Finally, Turkish mobile provider Turkcell has confirmed that it will launch an initial public offering (IPO) for a 25% stake in its wireless infrastructure arm Global Tower. The price range for the sale has been set at TRY3.82 to TRY4.46 (USD1.23 to USD1.44) per share. In a statement from the provider, Turkcell noted that the domestic prospectus is currently under review by the Capital Markets Board, and that further details will be published once the sale has been approved.

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