T-Mobile USA’s interest in raising much needed funds through the sale of its tower assets is causing waves throughout the tower industry as analysts look to read the tea leaves on which company has the inside track.
T-Mobile USA currently has about 7,000 towers, which would put it at about No. 5 in domestic tower ownership. The carrier owns strategic assets in California and the Northeast corridor, two regions of the country where it is often difficult to build towers. T-Mobile USA counts nearly 700 towers in the San Francisco Bay area, close to 2,000 in Southern California and close to 700 in the Northeast region of the country.
Reports of T-Mobile USA’s interest in selling its tower assets have been circling the mobile industry for years, though the carrier’s recent announcement that it would be spending $4 billion upgrading its network to LTE seems to have placed further emphasis on that sale.
Original estimates had place a $2.5 billion to $3 billion value on those towers, though Macquarie Equities Research came out recently with a lowered estimate of around $2 billion citing diminished interest from some tower owners.
“Our checks from CTIA 2012 suggest that [American Tower] is the front-runner for the [T-Mobile USA] tower assets and that interest has cooled from many of the tower operators,” the firm noted in a research note.
American Tower noted last year that T-Mobile USA currently accounted for 8% of its consolidated operating revenues in 2010
Outside of a possible sale, Macquarie reported that Crown Castle could be the first tower company to sign an agreement with T-Mobile USA in regards to the carrier’s planned LTE network build. In addition, the firm said SBA Communications could be looking at possibly acquiring T-Mobile USA’s revenue sharing agreement with Mobilitie for $75 million. SBA earlier this year announced a $1.1 billion deal to acquire 2,300 towers and some distributed antenna systems assets from Mobilitie.
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