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

16 May 2017

Chinese infrastructure sharing joint venture China Tower is on track to launch an initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong sometime between Q4 2017 and Q2 2018, the South China Morning Post cites a senior industry executive as saying. China Tower was established by the nation’s mobile network operators (MNOs) to pool tower assets and minimise the duplication of infrastructure deployment. China Mobile currently holds the largest stake in the firm (38.0%) having transferred the largest number of sites to the operator, whilst smaller cellcos China Unicom and China Telecom hold stakes of 28.1% and 27.9%, respectively. The remaining 6.0% is held by state asset-management organisation China Reform Holding.

The Zambian government is expecting to secure a USD280 million loan from China’s EXIM Bank to fund the construction of new telecom towers across the country by the end of June this year, Agence Econfin reports, citing Minister of Transport and Communication Bran Mushimba. The project will feature the deployment of 800 towers in rural areas that are densely populated but currently have poor coverage. To date, the government has rolled out 204 towers.

In a similar vein, the Economic Times cites India’s communication minister Manoj Sinha as saying that the Indian government had built more than 200,000 new telecom towers over the last nine months.

Staying with India, sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has requested that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) revisit its Right of Way (RoW) rules, as the current regulations exclude tower infrastructure providers, the Economic Times reports. The rules, introduced in November last year, allow telecom service licencees a more streamlined path to seek RoW, but the wording of the rules excludes IP-1 infrastructure providers, TRAI secretary Sudhir Gupta noted. ‘The IP-1s have played a pivotal role as far as provisioning of passive infrastructure is concerned,’ Mr Gupta added, noting that independent towercos have installed more than 450,000 towers and 1.5 million base transceiver stations (BTS).

Italian infrastructure provider Atlantia has said that it does not intent to acquire Spanish tower firm Cellnex as part of its bid to take over Barcelona-based transport infrastructure provider Abertis, which holds a 34% stake in Cellnex, Reuters writes. Under Spanish law, a shareholder that buys 30% or more of a company must make a full offer for that company. However, in its offer statement for Abertis, Atlantia explained that it would consider selling enough shares of Cellnex to avoid having to make an offer for the outstanding 66% stake.

Bharti Infratel, the infrastructure arm of Indian mobile market leader Bharti Airtel, has booked revenue of INR35.2 billion (USD549 million) for the three months ended 31 March 2017, up 11% year-on-year. EBITDA, meanwhile grew by 8% on an annualised basis to INR15.8 billion. A substantial increase in net financing costs and income tax expenses, however, led the operator to books a 17% decrease in net profit to INR6.0 billion. As at end-March 2017 Infratel’s standalone operations claimed a total of 39,099 towers with an average tenancy ratio of 2.25 but including its interest in Indus Towers, Infratel’s consolidated network comprised 90,646 sites, with an average sharing rate of 2.30.

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