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

20 Dec 2016

A consortium of US-based private equity firm KKR and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are reportedly the frontrunners to take over Bharti Infratel, the tower arm of India’s largest cellco by subscribers, Bharti Airtel, the Economic Times writes. The duo are now considered the strongest candidates to acquire the tower company after exclusive talks with Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management ended inconclusively. For its part, Brookfield has already agreed to acquire the tower business of another Indian cellco, Reliance Communications (RCOM), in October this year. Airtel, which owns a 71.96% share of Infratel, has not disclosed how much of its stake it is looking to sell, although several sources have suggested it is aiming to divest around 40% of the company’s shares, despite interest from potential bidders in a larger stake of 51%. In addition to its own towers, Infratel also holds a 42% stake in Indus Towers.

Indian infrastructure company Indus Towers, a joint venture between Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular, is planning to invest INR1 billion (USD14.73 million) to construct 500 new sites across the country within the next year. The new sites are camouflaged and connected to the national grid, with a battery as a backup electricity supply, and can also be used to charge electrical vehicles, CEO Bimal Dayal told the Economic Times. The sites are 10%-15% more expensive than traditional towers, the official noted, adding that the rollout is part of the company’s plan to eliminate its reliance on diesel generators for backing up its towers.

American Tower Corporation (ATC) and Dutch pension fund manager PGGM have agreed to acquire 100% of French tower operator FPS Towers, via their recently-established joint venture ATC Europe, from Antin Infrastructure Partners. The value of the deal was not disclosed and the sale is expected to close in Q1 2017, subject to regulatory approval. FPS Towers currently owns and operates around 2,400 sites across France. Commenting on the acquisition, ATC CEO James Taiclet said: ‘Through this transaction, we expect to elevate the growth profile of our European operations by entering into a new market with attractive wireless tower leasing opportunities and solid long-term growth prospects.’

In a related development, ATC has completed its acquisition of Argentinian infrastructure firm Comunicaciones y Consumos (CyCSA) for an undisclosed sum, Diario BAE writes. CyCSA owns more than 1,000 urban telecom sites and 2,500km of fibre-optic cabling, as well as exclusive rights for the future installation of telecommunications infrastructure in certain parts of the country. CEO for Latin America at ATC, Olivier Puech said of the deal: ‘Argentina represents an attractive market for us. The rapid adoption of advanced mobile devices and services is driving operators to make significant investments in their networks. We believe that these investments, combined with an increasingly attractive macroeconomic environment [and] coupled with our operational experience, will provide opportunities in the country.’

Spanish-owned tower infrastructure provider Cellnex Italy has signed an agreement with broadband and fixed-wireless operator Linkem, providing the latter with access to approximately 8,000 of its sites for the rollout of its LTE network.

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