American Tower today announced its Q2 2021 earnings, provided updates on i) organic tenant billings growth by region, including its 2021 outlook, ii) highlighted Germany and Spain as growth drivers for its business, iii) gave details on the closing of its Telxius acquisition and minority stake sales in ATC Europe, to CDPQ and Allianz, and iv) disclosed further details on its entry into new markets in Asia-Pacific, namely the Philippines and Australia.

Q2 2021 Results – American Tower

As of Q2 2021, American Tower owns 214k communications sites globally, of which 171k+ are located in international markets. During the quarter, American Tower’s property revenue was $2.2bn (97% of total), which grew 15.7% year-over-year (FX-neutral basis). Decomposing this figure, in the United States, property revenue growth was 13.3%, while international property revenue growth was 18.7% (FX-neutral basis).

However, these figures include growth through acquisitions, therefore, the company’s organic tenant billings growth presents a clearer view of trends.

Organic Tenant Billings Growth – Q2 2021

Overall, American Tower generated organic tenant billings growth of 4.8% in Q2 2021.

American Tower Organic Tenant Billings Growth Q2 2021

Of this total, the U.S. and Canada had 4.4% organic growth, while international markets experienced 5.3% organic growth. Specifically, organic growth in international markets was strong in Latin America (8.4%) and Africa (8.2%), improving in Europe (4.4%), but declined once again in India (-1.7%).

In the United States, 5G activity continues to advance, with all of the major U.S. wireless carriers being active in their deployments during the quarter. Additionally, Latin America’s strength was driven by new business commencements and higher rental escalators, primarily in Brazil. Further Africa, was propelled by accelerating 5G deployments and continuing 4G investments. Finally, India suffered from persistently elevated levels of churn.

Full-Year 2021 Outlook – American Tower

For full-year 2021, American Tower’s outlook contemplates property revenue of $9.06bn, an increase of 14% over 2020, at the mid-point. Additionally, the company is targeting adjusted EBITDA of $5.91bn (65% margin).

Through its full-year 2021 outlook, American Tower is forecasting consolidated organic tenant billings growth of ~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 Update

Organic Tenant Billings Growth – Full-Year 2021 Outlook

United States and Canada

American Tower expects 5G deployments to drive accelerating gross new business activity. Moreover, the company foresees strong growth long-term as wireless carriers invest in network densification over a multi-year period.

Africa

American Tower anticipates organic tenant billings growth in Africa will accelerate in the second-half of 2021 to be 9%+. Indeed, the company is witnessing encouraging leasing trends in the region. Growth rates in Nigeria are particularly strong, where American Tower is benefitting from a master lease agreement (MLA) signed in 2020 with Airtel.

Latin America

American Tower envisages smartphone users continuing to quickly increase their mobile data usage in Latin America. In turn, wireless carriers in the region will respond with incremental network investments.

Overall, the company expects slightly lower churn across Latin America. However, American Tower still expects churn to trend higher in the second-half of 2021 as wireless carrier consolidation occurs in Mexico.

Positively, American Tower recently signed a significant colocation deal with a major customer in Colombia, which will inflect growth higher in that market.

Europe

American Tower’s expectations in Europe increased by >150 basis points, versus its prior outlook. This increase is a result of 4G densification and 5G deployments (particularly in Germany), along with organic colocation leasing growth on Telxius sites.

India

American Tower does not foresee any organic tenant billings growth for India during 2021, given ongoing wireless carrier consolidation.

Germany and Spain Engines of Growth – American Tower

American Tower highlights its scaled presence in Germany and Spain as strong engines of growth for its European business. Indeed, American Tower views the wireless market structure and dynamics, regulatory regimes, and wireless carrier capital expenditure trends in Germany and Spain as favorable. To this end, Telefónica (via Telxius) is a high-quality anchor tenant for American Tower to build on, whilst scaling in the region.

Background

Germany and Spain’s mobile data usage is projected to grow through 2024 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25%+. One factor propelling this growth is that, in Germany and Spain, 5G device penetration is still in its infancy. At the same time, wireless carrier ARPUs have been relatively stable over an extended period of time, ensuring that these wireless carriers are profitable.

Additionally, the wireless market structure is favorable with wireless carrier consolidation having already occurred. This has resulted in a landscape with three major incumbent wireless carriers in Germany and four in Spain. Consequently, American Tower notes that any downside risk related to further wireless carrier consolidation and, in turn, tower decommissioning, in these markets, is relatively modest.

Spectrum

Wireless carriers in both Germany and Spain possess significant spectrum assets across multiple bands. Firstly, in Germany, the three incumbent operators, along with 1&1 Drillisch, all have 50+ MHz in the 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz range, which is now starting to be deployed for 5G roll-outs. Secondly, in Spain, all four major wireless carriers have 80+ MHz in the same globally harmonized mid-band range. Additionally, wireless carriers in Spain hold significant spectrum depth in the 800 MHz and 2.1 GHz frequencies.

Capital Expenditures

In aggregate, wireless carriers in Germany and Spain are spending $6bn+ in wireless capital expenditures annually. Moreover, a new entrant in Germany, namely 1&1 Drillisch, is accelerating 5G deployments, which could lead to an uptick in annual capital expenditures in these regions.

Densification

Further densification of communications sites will be necessary to augment existing 4G deployments and upcoming 5G roll-outs in Germany and Spain. As higher-band spectrum is deployed for 5G, networks will need to become denser to provide a “true” 5G experience.

Towers and Rooftop Sites

American Tower’s communications sites in Germany and Spain are focused on urban areas, where wireless carrier deployments will be concentrated. In turn, the company expects to deliver organic tenant billings growth of at least mid-single digits (i.e., 4% to 6%) on Telxius sites in Germany and Spain, over the next several years.

Portfolio Growth – M&A and Tower Builds by American Tower

Telxius Towers – Closing

During Q2 2021, American Tower added ~27.0k sites to its portfolio by closing the majority of its Telxius Towers acquisition. Specifically, this includes ~20.0k sites in Germany and Spain, and 7.0k+ sites in Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. Additionally, the company notes that 4.0k rooftop sites in Germany will close in early August 2021.

ATC Europe – Minority Stake Sale

In May and June 2021, American Tower sold a 40% stake in ATC Europe, the company’s European division, to entities of CDPQ and Allianz. Subsequent to Q2 2021, Allianz increased its minority interest from 10% to 18%, in ATC Europe, purchasing a portion of its stake through a new Allianz fund.

American Tower expects the minority stake transactions with CDPQ and Allianz to close in mid-Q3 2021, for total consideration of €2.6bn ($3.1bn). After completion of the transactions, American Tower will hold a 52% controlling ownership interest in ATC Europe.

Following CDPQ and Allianz’s minority stake purchases from American Tower, PGGM holds a 13% and a 17% minority interest, respectively, in ATC Europe’s operating subsidiaries in Germany and Spain.

Tower Builds by American Tower

During Q2 2021, American Tower built 1.0k new tower sites, primarily in India (582 sites) and Africa (235 sites). For full-year 2021, American Tower anticipates building a total of 6.5k to 7.5k tower sites globally. Specifically, these new builds include India (4.5k sites) and Africa (1.3k sites), amongst others.

Also, American Tower has set a long-term goal of constructing 40k to 50k communications sites globally, over the next 5 years.

New Markets for American Tower in Q2 2021 – Philippines and Australia

Through its Q2 2021 earnings release, American Tower made further disclosures about its entry into new markets in the Asia-Pacific region, namely the Philippines and Australia.

Philippines

American Tower operates in the Philippines via its subsidiary Transcend Towers Infrastructure. During Q2 2021, the company began operations in the Philippines through the construction of 18 sites.

Australia

American Tower’s acquisition of InSite Wireless allowed the company to launch operations in Australia in December 2020. In turn, the company, which operates as IWG-TLA Australia Pty, Ltd, has a platform to further scale in the country.

As of Q2 2021, American Tower does not own any communications sites in Australia. However, the company controls land under carrier and third-party communications sites, via ground leases.

Given the immaterial nature of this disclosure, Australia could be a country where American Tower is preparing for an acquisition. Check-out the article Who Will American Tower Acquire Next? for more.

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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