Australia Tower Network (ATN), an operator of Optus’ passive telecommunications tower infrastructure, which is owned 70%/30% by AustralianSuper and Singtel, today announced that it has agreed to acquire 100% of Axicom, an independent mobile towers owner and operator in Australia, from Macquarie Asset Management (MAM) and its co-investors, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and superannuation fund UniSuper (UBS-managed), for A$3.58bn ($2.68bn USD).
Upon completion of the Axicom acquisition, AustralianSuper’s ownership in the combined ATN/Axicom business will rise to 82%, while Singtel will be diluted to an 18% shareholding. Singtel will fund A$212m ($159m USD) as its portion of the Axicom acquisition consideration.
Reportedly, AustralianSuper and Singtel’s valuation of Axicom represents an EV/EBITDA transaction multiple of 27x, on a cash EBITDA basis.
Axicom – Combines with Australia Tower Network (ATN)
Axicom owns and operates ~2.0k telecommunication sites located in metropolitan and outer-metropolitan locations across all 8 states & territories and major cities in Australia.
Tower Footprint – Axicom
Post-transaction, Axicom will combine with AustralianSuper and Singtel’s Australia Tower Network (ATN), which operates 2.3k mobile towers and rooftop sites across Australia. Therefore, on a pro forma basis, the ATN/Axicom portfolio will comprise ~4.3k tower sites in Australia.
Additionally, over the next 3 years, ATN plans to construct a minimum of 565 new build-to-suit (BTS) towers, with Optus as the anchor tenant.
Overall, ATN/Axicom will possess the second-largest tower portfolio in Australia, behind Amplitel, which is Telstra’s towers business. Presently, Amplitel owns and operates ~8.2k tower assets, including 5.5k+ wireless towers, in Australia.
Also, TPG Telecom, the third largest wireless carrier in Australia, is undertaking a strategic review of its telecommunications tower assets. TPG owns ~1.2k rooftop sites and towers in Australia.
In May 2015, a consortium of investors led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) acquired Axicom, which was Crown Castle’s Australian subsidiary, for A$2.0bn ($1.6bn USD). Over the past 7 years, the Macquarie-led group has grown Axicom’s tower portfolio, extended customer contracts, and de-risked ground tenure by increasing the weighted average lease length.
Transaction Rationale – AustralianSuper and Singtel
AustralianSuper and Singtel expect to realize operational synergies by combining the tower infrastructure of Australia Tower Network (ATN) and Axicom. Together, the merged business will add scale and have a ‘truly’ national footprint, enabling connectivity for the vast majority of consumers and businesses in Australia. Also, ATN will diversify its customer base beyond primarily serving wireless carrier Optus.
For AustralianSuper, the opportunity to increase its investment in ATN progresses the firm’s goal of doubling its infrastructure portfolio over the next 5 years. Presently, AustralianSuper has A$31bn ($23bn USD) of infrastructure assets under management (AUM).
Transaction Advisors – AustralianSuper, Singtel, Macquarie
AustralianSuper and Singtel’s financial advisor was Jefferies. Additionally, AustralianSuper and Singtel’s legal advisor was Allens.
Macquarie’s financial advisor was Macquarie Capital. Additionally, Macquarie’s legal advisor was Gilbert + Tobin.