Europe news

A roundup of tower news across Europe

Czech Republic: Telecommunication company Ceska telekomunikacni infrastruktura (CETIN) has issued bonds worth up to EUR2bn (Kc54bn) in total and wants to use the money for investments in mobile networks development and faster Internet connection. The euro bond programme in several currencies was arranged by banks BNP Paribas, HSBC and PPF Banka and BNP Paribas, Citigroup, HSBC, ING, SG CIB and PPF Banka acted as the dealers.

France: Cellnex Telecom and Bouygues Telecom have closed the second phase of the agreement announced last July which included the incorporation of 230 towers for mobile telephony transmission equipment into Cellnex France, in a first phase which ended on 16 September 2016. In the second phase, Cellnex incorporates 270 towers involving an investment of €67mn in addition to the €80mn in the first package of assets. Thus, the cumulative investment in the acquisition of the 500 towers amounts to €147mn. Bouygues is also believed to have brought around 2,000 rooftop sites to market, which could well be of interest to Cellnex, American Tower and TDF.

Germany: Digital infrastructure minister Alexander Dobrindt announced that Germany wants to become the first country to set up a comprehensive 5G network. “We want Germany to be the leading market for 5G and the first country that will have a blanket 5G network,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Dobrindt as saying. A five-point strategy paper prepared by the ministry calls for all main transportation arteries and at least the 20 largest German cities to be fitted with 5G networks by 2025, with key decisions to be made by 2018.

Germany: Deutsche Telekom AG has shelved plans to sell its mobile phone towerco after a similar deal from Telefónica was scrapped in September, according to industry sources. The operator is believed to be considering extending the reach of its internal towerco Deutsche Funkturm, to manage towers outside of Germany, including Austria, Poland and The Netherlands. Deutsche Telekom last month named Chief Technology Officer Bruno Jacobfeuerborn as Managing Director of Deutsche Funkturm.

Germany: American Tower Corporation and PGGM announced entry into a definitive agreement to form a new joint venture (ATC Europe), which will focus on pursuing telecommunications real estate investment opportunities in select European countries. At closing, AMT will contribute its German assets into ATC Europe and PGGM will acquire a 49% interest in ATC Europe. American Tower will retain operational control and day-to-day oversight of ATC Europe.

Italy: INWIT, Telecom Italia’s tower unit, reported revenues of €83.9mn in the three months to 30 September, a 5.1% yoy rise, while the company’s EBITDA was €41.7 million, up 15.2% yoy, with its net financial debt declining €21.4 million compared to the previous quarter at €60.9 million. INWIT’s CEO Oscar Cicchetti said the results confirmed the solidity of the company’s strategic plan and that it had achieved its EBITDA target of growth in the low teens for the second consecutive quarter. The company reiterated its forecast of a low teens growth in EBITDA up to 2018.

Italy: Cellnex has announced an agreement with Linkem, the fastest growing broadband and fixed wireless service provider in Italy, to provide access to approximately 8,000 sites for the roll-out of Linkem’s LTE network. TowerXchange calculates that the deal, which Cellnex says will increase their tenancy ratio in Italy by around 5%, will roll out on around 500 sites initially.

Gianluca Landolina, CEO of GalataSpA, a company of the Cellnex Italy group said: “The agreement with Linkem confirms Cellnex’s intention to become the partner of choice for the leading telecom operators in Italy. Our goal is to support our customers and provide them with increasingly innovative services through our extensive network. This agreement further strengthens Cellnex position as the main independent tower operator in Italy.”

Kazakhstan: VimpelCom announced in August that their operator Beeline Kazakhstan had entered into a network sharing agreement with Kcell for the joint deployment of 4G/LTE services in Kazakhstan.

Yogesh Malik, Group Chief Technology Officer, VimpelCom, said: “Becoming asset-light is key to our strategy to transform our Group-wide network into one that meets our needs as a digital operator of the future. Central to our network consolidation strategy is finding like-minded partners to work with. The countrywide agreement with Kcell is the latest in a series of network sharing milestones that will further enable VimpelCom to deliver new digital services and improved network quality to bring us closer to our customers.”

The agreement will incorporate all 4G/LTE ready sites (including location, transmission capacity and the infrastructure environment of each city) into the newly-shared network, providing customers with superior 4G/LTE coverage and service quality.

Alexander Komarov, CEO of Beeline Kazakhstan said: “Beeline and Kcell will bring fourth-generation network infrastructure to millions of customers in Kazakhstan. This partnership is a key step in Beeline’s transformation into an agile, digital operator that will help its customers navigate the new digital world.”

Norway: Telenor has sold 142.5 VimpelCom shares at a price of $.5 per share, reducing its holding from 33% to 24.9%, representing the first stage in selling its entire holding. VimpelCom says it will not receive any proceeds from the sale of the shares and has also granted underwriters a 30-day option to purchase just over 21 million additional shares at the offering price. Telenor said it planned to sell the stake after a controversy around bribery in Uzbekistan, which it settled in February by paying $795 million in the Netherlands (where VimpelCom is registered) and the US

Russia: Tele2 is believed to be looking for a strategic partner to acquire their ~8,500 russian towers. Speculation revolves around whether a Tele2 or VimpelCom deal will close first.

Spain and UK: Telefónica Chief Strategy and Finance Officer Ángel Vilá told the Morgan Stanley technology media & telecom conference in Barcelona that it had received interest from infrastructure funds and private equity in Telxius since pulling the float and was in a stronger position to strike a deal that created value. “Maybe there are some possibilities. Now we have adjusted the dividend, we only do transactions that create value,” he said. Apollo, Blackstone, KKR, Brookfield, Apax and CVCare all reported to have expressed an interest in the assets.

Spain: AMP Capital has entered into an agreement to acquire 100 per cent of Axion from Antin Infrastructure Partners. Axion provides broadcasting, transport, site hosting and operation and maintenance services to the radio, regional television and telecommunications sectors with 70% of the business located in the Andalucia region in Southern Spain.

AMP Capital Global Infrastructure Fund Managing Partner Boe Pahari said: “Axion is a solid asset with a resilient business model. It is well placed to capture the huge growth opportunity in telecommunications at a time when mobile network operators are increasingly looking to outsource infrastructure to reduce cost and increase network coverage. Axion fits perfectly into the strategy for our global infrastructure platform with its strong cash generation supported by a contracted business model. Axion has a unique network of 584 sites and an established customer base, making it an attractive acquisition on behalf of our investors.

Spain: Cellnex announced in October a nine month EBITDA of €227mn, an increase of 18% from 2015 and in line with forecasts. Revenues of €520mn and net profits of €35mn are above analysts’ forecasts. Recent reports also suggest they have issued a further bond in order to bolster their liquidity for further acquisitions. Cellnex are believed to have raised $335mn through the issuance and may now be aiming to consolidate their position in key markets, including The Netherlands.

Switzerland: Swiss operator Sunrise Communications is believed to be bringing their towers to market, in what would be the first tower sale in the country. As one of Europe’s most wealthy countries, with a stable economy, Swiss towers will no doubt represent a popular opportunity for European strategic buyers and investors.

Turkey: Turkish mobile provider Turkcell has postponed the IPO of its wireless infrastructure division Global Tower. The operator said in a statement that it was delaying the sale until ‘markets come to a more secure and stable state’, citing cyber-attacks against popular websites in late October as well as risks relating to the US presidential election.

Turkey: Alfa Group, controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, could be in a position to take control of leading Turkish operator Turkcell after a dispute over shares with fellow shareholder Cukurova. Alfa Group has been in a dispute for control of Turkey’s top mobile operator with equity partner Cukurova, run by Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, Turkcell’s founder and one of Turkey’s richest men, for almost ten years. A deadline was set for 18 November for Cukurova to choose to either buy Fridman’s shares for $2.7 billion or sell its own stake to Fridman for $2.8 billion but no declaration was made meaning that the option of buying moves to Alfa.

UK and Netherlands: Spain’s Cellnex has signed a deal with Arcus Infrastructure Partners to buy 100% of UK-based Shere Group for €393mn. Shere Group manages 1,004 telecom tower sites, of which 540 are in the UK and 464 in The Netherlands. Cellnex expects the new acquisition to contribute revenues of around €29mn on an annual basis. The move marks Cellnex’ first entry into the UK market and bolsters their Dutch portfolio following the towercos acquisition of Protelindo’s 261 towers in the country earlier this year.

UK: Telefónica is considering whether to set aside part of an initial public offering of UK mobile operator O2 for individual investors instead of purely institutional buyers to broaden the potential customer base for any sale, according to industry rumours.

O2 Chief Executive Officer Mark Evans discussed such a sale with the Sunday Telegraph, saying there would be “reasonable demand” from the company’s 25 million customers.

Telefónica has suffered a series of setbacks in its efforts to cut its €52.6bn ($59bn) in debt, including regulatory opposition that blocked the sale of O2 to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. and the scrapped IPO of its infrastructure unit Telxius in September, because of weak investor demand.

UK: Virgin Media announced an agreement to acquire Wi-Fi hotspot specialist Arqiva WiFi in a bid to boost its outdoor wireless network reach and connectivity for its customers. The deal will give Virgin Media access to 31,000 WiFi access points across 6,500 locations, building on Virgin media’s existing WiFi network, which includes 250 London Underground Stations.

“Virgin Media is a strong match for our customers given its extensive experience of the WiFi market, both in-home and outdoor. These new agreements will enable both Virgin Media and Arqiva to leverage their respective strengths to deliver innovative and compelling solutions to customers where the need for capacity and coverage is ever increasing,” said Nicolas Ott, managing director, Telecoms and M2M at Arqiva.

UK: Telecom tower firm Arqiva, which operates more than 8,000 sites across the UK, is planning a £5bn sale, abandoning its previous intention to list on the London Stock Exchange, according to reports. The process for the sale is not expected to get underway until well into 2017, and probably won’t close until 2018.

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