Europe News

Austria: Telekom Austria assessing options in southeastern Europe

Telekom Austria is believed to be interested in investing in southeast Europe, according to quotes from CEO Alejandro Plater in Der Standard. The MNO, controlled by America Movil and including the Austrian state among its shareholders, could well be looking to invest in the Balkan region. With so much MNO M&A lined up for the CEE region over the course of 2018, TowerXchange will watch with interest to see how tower assets are managed by new owners looking to maximise their investments.

Czech Republic: Towerco coming to market

Rumours that Macquarie-owned České Radiokomunikace (CRa) will come to market in 2018 have intensified, with a financial advisor belived to be working on bringing the towerco to market in late summer. With an EBITDA of €63mn, the asset could fetch as much as €800mn for 800 towers in the Czech Republic. Macquarie bought the towerco for €574mn in 2010 and has attempted to sell it unsuccessfully at least twice since then.

Finland: Digital Colony Acquires Digita

Marc Ganzi’s investment firm Digital Colony has announced that a Digital Colony affiliate has entered into a binding agreement to acquire Finnish broadcast towerco Digita Oy from First State Investments.

Founded in 1999 as a spin-off from national broadcaster Yle, Digita is Finland’s leading TV and radio broadcasting network and the only platform with the ability to reach nearly 100 percent of the Finnish population. The company is also Finland’s largest independent tower network owner, providing infrastructure solutions to the country’s largest mobile network operators. Digita will continue to be led by CEO Juha-Pekka Weckström and the existing management team.

“Digita is well-positioned to extend its business model into adjacent markets as the deployment of 5G will increase demand for new macro towers, rooftop sites, small cell deployments, and data centers,” said Ben Jenkins, Managing Partner at Digital Colony. “We look forward to partnering with Digita’s highly experienced team to ensure that the company’s processes and systems remain best in class to provide customers state-of-the-art solutions across the entire value chain.”

Finland: 5G services launched

Mobile network operator Elisa claims to have launched a 5G network in Finland, including the sale of 5G subscriptions in both Tampere in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia, with a call between governmental counterparts in the two countries. Although full 5G launch is still dependent on a suitable spectrum auction and licenses, Elisa is ambitious to make Finland a world leader in 5G mobile services. Elisa stated that, having built out a network with 5G capability in Tampere and its surrounding areas, work on similar upgrades is already underway in Turku and Jyvaskyla.

France: KKR and Altice form SFR TowerCo

In a surprise move, Altice has backed away from the sale and leaseback of their French and Portuguese sites, instead setting up two SPVs in partnership with financial institutions. 

In France, Altice has sold a 49.9% stake to US firm KKR (who also own 40% of TEF’s tower and sub sea cable arm Telxius), creating SFR TowerCo, comprising the 10,198 sites owned by SFR in France, plus a further 1,200 planned build to suit towers. Altice anticipates that the portfolio will generate €250mn within four years. 

Germany: O2 and E-Plus merger complete

Telefónica Deutschland has completed the merger of the O2 and E-Plus networks and says that the new merged network will be optimal for the implementation of future network technologies such as 5G. Telefónica plans to continue the integration and modernisation of base stations across Germany, as well as adding new locations in both urban and rural locations.

Italy: Iliad sees rapid take-up

Since Iliad launched in Italy at the end of May it has signed up around 300,000 new customers, with an introductory deal of unlimited calls, unlimited SMS and 30GB of data for €5.99 a month for the first million customers. Around 40% of Iliad’s new customers have come from Wind, 25% from Vodafone and 20% from TIM. Their goal is to achieve 10% of market share, or around 80 million customers, on a network which relies heavily on the towercos in the country.

Italy: Shake up at Telecom Italia

Activist US fund Elliott has shaken up the Telecom Italia board, winning a shareholder vote to appoint ten independent directors to the board, and reappointing CEO Amos Genish, who both Elliott and Vivendi hope will work well with all shareholders. Genish’s long term plan to focus on digital transformation and get back an investment grade credit rating has been given a seal of approval by shareholders.

Italy: TowerTel not for sale, says EI Towers

Following rumours in the press that EI Towers may be about to sell telecoms arm TowerTel to Cellnex, EI Towers’ CEO Guido Barbieri has stated that they are in the course of developing the TowerTel asset, telling Reuters that it is ‘not for sale’. Barbieri stated that they would continue with their strategy of acquiring small ‘mom and pop’ towercos in Italy, and speculated that the Altice towers could even be of interest, given the similarity in scale between the Portuguese portfolio and EI’s own assets.

Netherlands: Deutsche Telekom looking to expand reach of DFMG

During the DT Q1 earnings call on May 12, Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutche Telekom, stated that they are looking to expand tower arm DFMG into the Netherlands, and possibly to work with Cellnex on the expansion, referring to Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners’ partnership with Cellnex in Switzerland, saying: “We are working already with the Sunrise people in Switzerland on this equation in the Netherlands”. It’s rumoured that DT may also look to divest the 8,000 towers they own in the UK, which are currently tied up in MBNL in partnership with Three.

Portugal: Altice, Morgan Stanley and Horizon create for Towers of Portugal 

Altice has agreed to sell 75% of a newly-formed tower business, to be named Towers of Portugal, to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners and Horizon Equity Partners. Towers of Portugal will incorporate all of Altice’s 2,961 sites, with a further 400 new build towers planned.

Slovakia: Macquarie brings another asset to market

As well as looking for a buyer for Czech towerco České Radiokomunikace (CRa), Macquarie is believed to be considering the sale of Slovak asset Towercom AS, which owns around 700 towers in Slovakia. The towerco is expected to be valued at around €240mn.

Spain: Edizione considers selling part of Cellnex stake

In April 2018 Edizione acquired 29.9% of Cellnex through the acquisition of Abertis by subsidiary Atlantia. Edizione are now believed to be searching for new investors to inject extra cash into the company and support growth.

On May 31st Cellnex held its general shareholder meeting and reported revenues of €792mn and EBITDA of €355mn (+12% and +22% respectively) for 2017. With potential partnerships or management deals in the pipeline with Deutsche Telekom’s Deutsche Funkturm as it rolls out across Europe, and with Saudi operator STC, as well as an active role in the bidding for Altice’s towers in Portugal and the potential to acquire TIM’s 60% stake in Italian towerco arm INWIT, Cellnex is one of the fastest growing towercos in the world and will be sure to garner interest from infrastructure funds and investors from around the world.

Turkey: banks lined up to take control of Turk Telekom.

The three largest creditors of Turk telekom’s parent company Ojer Telekomunikasyon (OTAS), Garanti Bank, Isbank and Akbank, have agreed on initial proposals to take over Ojer Telekomunicasyon’s 55% stake in Turk Telekom as part of a debt restructuring deal. OTAS has defaulted on three repayments since September 2016, resulting in creditors seeking a takeover plan with the government, which trains a 25% stake in Turk Telekom. The plan, which if approved should be implemented in June, would see ownership divided between 29 creditor banks via a specially created holding company.

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