Monthly News Roundup: February 2024
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Monthly News Roundup: February 2024

A round-up of all the latest news in the global tower industry



Regional: ITU announced US$9bn connectivity funding commitments

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has announced a US$9bn investment commitment from MNOs to extend global connectivity, targeting MENA, Africa and Asia to support the Organisation's Partner2Connect Digital Coalition. e& will include a US$6bn commitment for accessible and affordable network connectivity across its countries, as well as US$1.1bn from Qatar-based MNO Ooredoo to targets its developing markets in North Africa.


Bulgaria: CETIN’s majority stake sale to e& gets regulatory approval

The Bulgarian Commission on Protection of Competition (CPC) has approved e&’ acquisition of a majority stake in towerco CETIN and MNO Yettel taking the UAE-based buyer one step closer to completing a multi-country deal in Europe. The regulator has stated the purchase will not have a significant effect on competition in the country. CETIN and Yettel’s sale in the country is part of a larger deal involving the sale of a 50% plus one share in MNOs and towercos in Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia by parent company PPF Group to e& for up to EUR2.5bn.

Czech Republic: CETIN announces new CEO

Tomáš Kouřil will become the new CEO and Member of the Board of Directors of CETIN a.s., PPF Group’s towerco in the Czech Republic, the company has announced. Effective from 1 March, he replaces current CEO Martin Škop who continue in the role of strategic advisor to Tomáš Kouřil until the end of June 2024.

Mr. Kouřil comes from O2 Czech Republic where he held the position of CFO and Vice-chairman of the Board. Under his helm, CETIN’s priority development areas will include further deployment of fiber infrastructure, new generation of 5G services, comprehensive connectivity solutions, and improved customer experience.

Italy: Wind Tre’s infrastructure sale to EQT Infrastructure falls through

MNO Wind Tre’s carved-out RAN, mobile core network and fixed network and their sale to EQT Infrastructure for an enterprise value of EUR 3.4 billion has been cancelled, EQT Infrastructure has announced. The sale was announced in May 2023 but its completion has been complicated by 5G-related third-party agreements with Wind Tre’s competitors Iliad and Fastweb with whom the MNO has existing network sharing agreements.

EQT Infrastructure and CK Hutchison, Wind Tre’s current owner had agreed longstop date was set for 12 February 2024 and had indicated that there was a possibility that the transaction may not proceed. In EQT’s statement, the investor has noted that it will continue to look for new deals in this area, without precluding taking a new approach to a deal for Wind Tre’s infrastructure carve-out.

Spain: EC approves Orange–MásMóvil merger

The European Commission (EC) has approved the merger of MNOs Orange and MásMóvil in Spain. The decision to give the green light to a 50:50 joint venture between the two companies took a long time due to concerns over the potential impact of the merger on Spain’s mobile market.

A package of remedies was adopted in December 2023 which include the sale of spectrum held by MásMóvil to Spanish MVNO Digi across three frequency spectrum bands to allow Digi to build its own mobile network. Digi also has the option to enter into a national roaming agreement with the joint venture in the future. Digi could choose to remain with its current wholesale partner, which is Telefónica.


Regional: American Tower reports Q4 and FY 2023 financial results

On February 27, 2024, American Tower Corp (NYSE: AMT) made public it's 8-K filing, disclosing its financial outcomes for the last quarter and entirety of 2023. The renowned company, specializing in independent ownership, operation, and construction of multi-tenant communications real estate, unveiled a diverse performance overview, highlighting revenue expansion alongside a decline in annual net earnings. Top highlights include; total revenues increasing by 3% in Q4 and 4% over the FY, with property revenue growing by 4.6% in Q4 and 5.1% for the FY, for adjusted EBITDA rising by 3.2% in Q4 and 6.7% over the FY. AFFO declined by 2.1% in Q4 but increased by 2.1% overall for the FY and free cash flow increased significantly by 17.7% in Q4 and 61.3% for the full FY.

Regional: SBA Communications announces Q4 2023 results with a 2024 outlook

On February 26, 2024, SBA Communications Corp (NASDAQ:SBAC) published its 8-K filing, outlining a strong performance in the fourth quarter of 2023 and offering an optimistic projection for the entire year of 2024. As a prominent independent owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure, the company manages close to 40,000 cell towers spanning across North America, South America, and Africa. With substantial operations in the United States and Brazil, SBA Communications operates as a real estate investment trust (REIT), concentrating on leasing tower space to major mobile carriers.

Regional: Telefónica CEO assures that the new businesses that emerged in Chile, Colombia and Peru are going in the projected direction

Álvarez-Pallete's vision, CEO of Telefónica, that businesses in Colombia, Chile, and Peru "are profitable or they are sold" has sparked creativity among Latin American executives. He highlighted the sale of 60% of the optical fiber to the investment fund Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) to alleviate the company's heavy structure in Chile and to generate new business opportunities. This recipe has been replicated in Colombia and Peru and is set to continue in future operations. "With ideas like this, the Telefónica Group seeks the profitability of Hispam and is heading in the right direction," he said.

Regional: Digicel Group completes new board lineup

Digicel Group unveiled its newly formed Board of Directors, with Rajeev Suri appointed as Chairman. Accompanying Rajeev on the Board are Rodrigo Diehl and Alberto Griselli, who will join previously announced non-executive directors Tarek Robbiati, Mariame Robinson, Rachel Samren, and Xiao Song. Denis O'Brien, the founder of Digicel, retains his position as an equity holder in the recapitalized business and as a member of the Board. Additionally, Maarten Boute, the Interim CEO and Group COO of Digicel Group, has been appointed to the Board.

Brazil: TIM reaches speeds of 11.6Gbps in 5.5G tests

TIM announced this Tuesday, the 27th, that it achieved a record speed in the Americas in 5.5G tests, reaching a data transfer speed of 11.6 Gbps in its laboratory in Rio de Janeiro. The new technology is an evolution of the fifth generation of cell phones and allows speeds ten times higher than the current speeds of current 5G. The test performance shows new possibilities for using the fifth generation spectrum, capable of providing a new experience for customers and Internet of Things applications.

Mexico: President calls for dissolution of the telecoms regulator

A reform package proposed by Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador would see a number of regulatory organisations shut down, including the telecoms regulator the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT).


Benin: MTN to invest US$150mn in infrastructure

MTN has pledged to invest US$150mn into their infrastructure network in Benin over the next three years because of a successful 5G trial. Despite speculations that MTN might withdraw from its more challenging West African markets to focus on core regions, Group CEO Raplh Mupita stated that they “are committed to the development and upskilling of the Beninese youth and have made clear our desire to partner with the government and other stakeholders in this regard”. It is not clear how this capital plans to be used but will likely be used to drive a more aggressive network rollout and increase points of presence for 4G and 5G coverage.

South Africa: Telkom cracks down on crime

Telkom South Africa has helped drive convictions for cable theft and infrastructure vandalism of their network, significantly reducing infrastructure-related crime at their sites and facilities having apprehended over 3,000 suspects since 2017. The MNO found that police tip-offs and reporting hotlines were most affective in catching criminals.

The Economic Sabotage of Critical Infrastructure (ESCI) Forum estimates economic damage from copper theft alone costs US$371.6mn per year and a wider impact of US$9.9bn, with operator spending millions of dollars to replace stolen or vandalised cables and batteries. All MNOs are heavily investing in security and network resiliency to try and cap the enormous bleed in capex spend into replacing equipment.

Regional: ATC Africa and Airtel face competition investigation

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa competition commission has opened an investigation into ATC and Airtel Africa to alleged anti-competitive conduct. In a statement, the commission suggested both companies potentially violated Article 16 of its regulations which prohibits agreements that may affect trade between member states or restrict competition.

ATC and Airtel Africa signed a multi-year agreement back in 2022 where the MNO would leverage the towercos sites in Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Uganda to support its network rollout. A complaint was received that alleged anti-competitive agreements between the two, in which Airtel Africa would take a certain number of ATC sites annually in return for a cash rebate. The commission with look into this allegation to determine its effects on the market, with both companies having until March 14th to submit their representations to the commission.

Regional: Intelsat and AMN help connect rural Madagascar

Rural Network-as-a-Service provider AMN has partnered with satellite operator Intelsat to connect 500 sites in Madagascar to provide mobile broadband services to rural communities. 60% of the population live in remote areas and accessing sites is extremely challenging due to the lack of transportation networks; AMN has used livestock carts and even canoes to transport equipment to site locations. 65 sites are up and running with the aim of connecting 120 by March, bringing coverage to 200,000 people.


Bangladesh: Summit Towers secures $100m deal for part of Banglalink’s tower portfolio

Dutch based mobile telecoms operator VEON's own Bangladesh based subsidiary Banglalink has fully closed a $100m deal to sell part of its tower portfolio in Bangladesh to Summit Towers. More than 2,000 towers – about one-third of Banglalink’s towers portfolio – will be transferred to Summit Towers, a company majority-owned by Summit Communications Group, a leading Bangladeshi infrastructure group.

Philippines: PhilTower and MIDC announce joint venture plans

PhilTower and Miescor Infrastructure Development Corporation (MIDC) have announced their intention to form a joint venture. The JV will intend to provide improved coverage for its mobile network operator clients and continue to drive investment in digital infrastructure in the Philippines, whilst also meeting the country's growing demand for 4G and 5G mobile network infrastructure.

Regional: American Tower registers healthy Q4 2023 Asia-Pacific performance

American Tower posted healthy numbers in Asia-Pacific in its Q4 2023 results, experiencing a 45.5% climb in segment revenues to $336m, including a like-for-like increase of 11.3% in Q4. Its performance in the region was further enhanced by an approximate 2% organic tenant billings growth in 2024, including colocation and amendment growth of approximately 3.5%.

In its full year financial results announcement, the company reflected upon its activities in the region, including the divestment of its India portfolio, selling ATC India to Brookfield. The company said it also concluded its strategic review of its India business, focusing on allocating more of its development CapEx to developed markets as opposed to emerging markets.

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