American Tower today announced its Q1 2021 earnings, provided updates on organic tenant billings growth by region including its 2021 outlook, highlighted thematic growth drivers for its business, and gave details on its tower portfolio growth through new tower builds and M&A.

Q1 2021 Results – American Tower

In Q1 2021, American Tower’s property revenue was $2.13bn (99% of total), which grew 9.8% year-over-year (FX-neutral basis). Decomposing this figure, in the United States, property revenue growth was 13%, while international property revenue growth was 5.8% (FX-neutral basis). However, these figures include growth through acquisitions, such as American Tower’s purchase of InSite Wireless. Therefore, the company’s organic tenant billings growth provides a clearer picture into the company’s growth trends by region.

Organic Tenant Billings Growth – Q1 2021

Overall, American Tower generated organic tenant billings growth of 4.1% in Q1 2021.

American Tower Organic Tenant Billings Growth Q1 2021

Of this total, the U.S. and Canada had 3.6% organic growth, while international markets experienced 5.0% organic growth. Specifically, organic growth in international markets was strong in Latin America (7.9%) and Africa (7.4%), consistent in Europe (3.3%), but declined in India (-1.6%).

In Latin America and Africa, American Tower’s tenants are actively deploying equipment across their network as mobile data consumption grows rapidly. In particular, activity in Nigeria was strong, with growth in the country expected to ramp-up in the future.

Additionally, in Europe, Germany was a strong growth engine, with gross (excluding churn) new leasing growth of 7%, driven by accelerating 5G deployments and continuing investments in 4G. Finally, in India, American Tower’s organic tenant billings growth decline was driven by negative impacts to wireless carriers from the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues and consolidation-related churn in the market.

Full-Year 2021 Outlook – American Tower

Through its full-year 2021 outlook, American Tower is forecasting consolidated organic tenant billings growth of 3% to 4%. However, the components of this growth are driven by market-specific trends in each of American Tower’s operating regions.

American Tower Organic Tenant Billings Growth Full-Year 2021 Outlook

Organic Tenant Billings Growth – Full-Year 2021 Outlook

United States and Canada

American Tower projects 3% organic tenant billings growth for the U.S. & Canada during 2021. Specifically, this growth will be driven by 5G-related densification initiatives by the wireless carriers, as they roll-out multiple spectrum bands. Furthermore, the company expects gross new business activity will accelerate through 2021 and into 2022.

Africa

American Tower anticipates more than 8% organic tenant billings growth for Africa during 2021. Specifically, spending on 4G deployments will drive this growth, with a particularly strong contribution from Nigeria. Approaching year-end 2021, the company expects that organic tenant billings growth in Africa will accelerate further, to be above 9%.

Latin America

American Tower projects 7% organic tenant billings growth for Latin America during 2021. Overall, American Tower has seen consistent wireless carrier activity in Latin America as the customers of the wireless carriers continue to increase their mobile data usage. In turn, the wireless carriers are responding with incremental network investments during 2021.

Europe

American Tower forecasts more than 3% organic tenant billings growth for Europe during 2021. Specifically, incumbent wireless carriers accelerating their 5G initiatives will drive this growth. Additionally, American Tower envisions strength in Germany, particularly from its new tenant, 1&1 Drillisch, which is beginning to roll-out its network.

India

American Tower does not foresee any organic tenant billings growth for India during 2021. The company notes that India is in the very late stages of its wireless carrier consolidation process. As a result, American Tower expects to realize elevated churn in 2021 from this post-AGR environment.

Thematic Revenue Growth Drivers – American Tower

American Tower highlights four thematic growth drivers for its business, which result from wireless carriers further densifying their network and adding more equipment to existing tower sites to support their incremental capacity needs. Fueling this growth, is wireless CapEx spend of $35bn+ annually from American Tower’s customers, in the coming years.

C-band Spectrum

American Tower expects C-band spectrum to be deployed quickly and is already witnessing sizable increases in activity in its services segment (a leading indicator).

DISH Network – New Market Entrant

During Q1 2021, American Tower entered into a master lease agreement (MLA) with DISH Network. Lease payments from DISH will begin in 2022 and grow as DISH deploys its 5G network.

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)

Government support, through programs like the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), is enabling smaller companies to deploy fixed wireless access (FWA) services. Specifically, these deployments are using mid-band spectrum and tower infrastructure. Importantly, American Tower is participating in this development, as shown by its January 2021 announcement with Nextlink Internet.

Massive MIMO

Unique to 5G will be the use of massive MIMO technology for mid-band spectrum deployments on towers. Indeed, massive MIMO will provide wireless carriers with more dynamic coverage and capacity capabilities, for their 5G networks. In preparation for massive MIMO deployments, American Tower has been upgrading the power at its sites and the capacity of its tower structures to handle the additional size and weight of these antennas.

Portfolio Growth – Tower Builds and M&A

Tower Builds by American Tower – Q1 2021

During Q1 2021, American Tower built 2.0k new tower sites, primarily in India (1.3k sites) and Africa (500 sites). For full-year 2021, American Tower anticipates building a total of 6.5k tower sites globally. Specifically, these new builds are for India (4.5k sites), Africa (1.3k sites), Latin America (600 sites), and Europe (100 sites).

Telxius Towers – Closing Timing

American Tower provided updates on the closing of its €7.7bn ($9.4bn) acquisition of Telxius’ 31.0k European and Latin American towers from Telefónica.

Europe Towers – Germany and Spain

American Tower has received all required government and regulatory approvals in Germany and Spain. In turn, the company expects to close the majority of these European sites in Q2 2021. Of this total, 4.0k sites in Germany will close in Q3 2021.

Latin America Towers – Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Argentina

American Tower expects to close the Latin American sites either late in Q2 or Q3 2021.

India Towers – ATC Telecom Infrastructure

In February 2021, American Tower entered into an agreement with the Macquarie-SBI Infrastructure Fund (MSIF), which is backed by Macquarie Group and the State Bank of India (SBI), to purchase their holdings in ATC Telecom Infrastructure. Notably, ATC Telecom Infrastructure is part of American Tower’s operations in India.

Overall, American Tower is paying Macquarie-SBI $176.5m (12.9bn Indian Rupees) and post-transaction will hold 100% ownership of ATC Telecom Infrastructure.

Other American Tower Acquisitions – Q1 2021

During Q1 2021, American Tower spent $115m to acquire 116 communications sites ($991k per site). Specifically, this includes 48 sites in the U.S. and 68 sites in Latin America.

Adam Simmons is the Founder & CEO of Dgtl Infra. He started his career with an S&P 500-listed big box retailer, in an operations management role. Adam's entrepreneurial "itch" led him to start a 5G-driven company, focused on innovative retail solutions using augmented reality and shoppable videos, which was eventually sold to an advertising and consulting group. After, realizing the potential of 5G, Adam shifted his efforts towards investing in the "building blocks" of 5G - known as digital infrastructure, completing a number of strategic investments, buying cellular towers, data centers and fiber networks.

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