The mobile phone tower sector is once again in turmoil. Deutsche Telekom yesterday announced the sale of 51% of the capital of its subsidiary GD Towers, holder of its towers in Germany and Austria, to the consortium of funds formed by Brookfield and DigitalBridge. This is the largest transaction in this segment on the Old Continent, with a value of 17,500 million euros, and a total of 40,000 locations.
With this transaction, European operators will have sold telecommunications tower assets for an amount close to 55,000 million euros since 2019.
The most active company in this segment is Cellnex, which concluded six of the ten largest transactions. The main one is the purchase of the Hutchison towers in six European countries, for 10,000 million euros (the operation in the United Kingdom is still awaiting completion).
The company led by Tobías Martínez has also concluded the purchase of Hivory in France, for 5,400 million euros; Arqiva towers in the United Kingdom, for 2,300 million, Polkomtel Cifrowa in Poland, for 1,570 million; Iliad towers in France, for 1,400 million and Play in Poland, for 1,300 million, among other transactions. In recent years, Cellnex has also made other acquisitions in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Austria and Sweden. This growth strategy places Cellnex as the leading European group with more than 100,000 sites (it will be approximately 130,000 including the new towers included in the contracts with the telecoms).
Among the major transactions is also the acquisition of the towers of Telxius, a subsidiary of Telefónica, by American Tower, for 7,700 million euros, which positions the American giant among the main groups of the Old Continent.
Also noteworthy in the sector is the IPO of Vantage Towers, a subsidiary of Vodafone, which includes its establishments in various European countries, including Germany and Spain. The British operator raised 2,300 million euros by placing 19% of the capital.
On the market, attention is focused on what Orange will do with Totem Group, where it consolidates its tower assets in France and Spain. So far, the French operator has chosen to retain control of this activity, unlike competitors such as Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone or Telefónica, who have opted for its sale to raise funds to reduce debt or increase investments in other segments such as fibre. optical or mobile 5G deployments.
According to data from the European Wireless Infrastructure Association (EWIA), at the end of 2021, operators had the ability to free up capital with the sale of these assets for an amount close to 28 billion euros.
With these operations, telecoms have reduced their presence in this segment, to the benefit of independent groups such as Cellnex and investment funds specializing in infrastructure, such as the aforementioned Brookfield which, in addition to Deutsche Telekom towers, has acquired Telia in Sweden, Finland and Norway, Ardian, KKR or Pontegadea, Amancio Ortega’s investment vehicle.
At the end of 2021, the total share of independent tower companies was around 35%. There have also been cases of convergence between the two types of investors, such as the case of American Tower, which sold 48% of the capital of its division to Allianz and the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (CDPQ). European for nearly 2,600 million.
In Spain, according to data from TowerXchange, American Tower leads the market with 11,507 locations, with almost 8,700 from Cellnex, 8,600 from Vantage Towers, 7,729 from Totem and 600 from Axion, group acquired by Asterion Industrial Partners in 2020 for nearly 200 million. euro.euro.