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

24 Jan 2017

Malaysian telecoms group Axiata has signed definitive agreements for its Equity Private Placement Deal, under which Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) and Khazanah Nasional Berhad have committed to purchase a combined total of 819.81 million shares in the group’s wholly-owned telecoms infrastructure firm edotco for USD600 million. INCJ will purchase 546.54 million edotco shares for USD400 million, whilst Khazanah will buy the remaining 273.27 million shares for USD200 million. The placement will give the newcomers a combined stake of 34.1% in edotco, though Axiata will remain the majority shareholder with a 65.9% stake.

Staying with Malaysia, the New Strait Times writes that the Perak state government has launched a crackdown on illegal telecoms infrastructure in the state. Speaking at a press conference this week, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir explained that large numbers of towers had been installed illegally on government-owned land. Operators had failed to register the construction of, or pay the related fees for, some 2,800 towers – compared to around 1,400 properly registered sites. Dr Zambry went on to say that the infractions were costing the government approximately MYR20 million (USD4.5 million) per year in unpaid dues and that he had instructed public sector-backed ICT development firm K-Perak to take strong measures against owners of illegal towers. In October 2015 K-Perak established the Telecommunications Infrastructure Coordinating Agency (Agensi Penyelaras Infrastruktur Telekomunikasi, APIT), which was empowered by the government to ‘coordinate, manage, monitor, oversee and audit’ telecoms infrastructure development across Perak.

Houston-based wireless infrastructure firm Crown Castle International has completed its acquisition of fibre-optic network solutions provider FPL FiberNet from NextEra Energy for an undisclosed sum. In its press release, Crown Castle noted that the takeover also included several of the energy company’s other subsidiaries, but stopped short of naming the units. FPL FiberNet owns and operates a fibre network spanning around 10,000 route miles across Florida and Texas.

Four private equity firms have reportedly entered bids for passive infrastructure provider Tower Vision, currently valued at between USD200 million and USD250 million, the Economic Times writes. Apax Partners, Blackstone, Carlyle and Brookfield make up the quartet of interested parties, with an unnamed source at one of the bidders quoted as saying that the four are currently carrying out the second level of due diligence and are in talks to purchase a controlling stake. The prospective sale follows a recent rash of tower sales in India, including Reliance Communications’ (RCOM’s) agreement to sell a 51% stake in its infrastructure arm, Reliance Infratel to Brookfield earlier this month, and American Tower Corporation’s (ATC’s) acquisition of a 51% stake in Viom Networks in April 2016.

Indeed, Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal has confirmed that the group is exploring options to divest its stake in domestic tower venture Bharti Infratel. Bloomberg cites the official as saying that the group has received offers for the company, though Airtel has not yet decided whether it wants to sell a minority or controlling interest. To that end, a committee has been formed to decide the best way forward, Mr Mittal added. Infratel registered total revenue of INR34.01 billion (USD498.5 million) for the three months ending 31 December 2016, an increase of 9.5% compared to the corresponding period of 2015, whilst EBITDA was up 9.4% year-on-year to INR14.96 billion. Quarterly post-tax profit for the company, meanwhile was INR6.20 billion compared to INR4.95 billion a year earlier. Infratel counted a total of 90,255 towers as at 31 December 2016 – including 42% of the towers owned and operated by its joint venture Indus Towers – with a tenancy ratio of 2.24, up from 88,055 and 2.17 respectively, in December 2015.

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