Peppertree Capital Management, a digital infrastructure private equity firm headquartered in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, has partnered with iSON Tower Ltd Inc, an independent tower company, to fund the roll-out of cellular towers in the Philippines.
iSON Tower – Backed by Peppertree Capital in the Philippines
iSON Tower is headquartered in Singapore and focuses on deploying tower infrastructure in emerging markets. The company has offices in Gurgaon, India; Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
To-date, iSON Tower has secured build-to-suit (BTS) commitments from the Philippines’ largest wireless carriers, namely Globe Telecom and PLDT (Smart Communications). As such, both Globe Telecom and PLDT will become anchor tenants on iSON Tower’s shared infrastructure in the country.
In the Philippines, iSON Tower notes the market potential to support 50k tower assets in the coming years. Presently, the Philippines has only ~24k cell sites and thus the company implicitly expects the country will need at least ~26k more cell sites.
Within its markets of operation, iSON Tower provides the following managed services:
- Tower Sharing & Colocation: installation of equipment on existing towers for a new tenant alongside existing tenants
- Network Deployment: structural & electrical engineering, equipment installation, traffic integration, test & turn-up, cut over, and project management
- Manage with a License to Lease (MLL): iSON Tower has the right to lease-out space on towers to other wireless carriers and provide services (e.g., maintenance). By entering into MLL agreements, the site owner typically reduces its operating costs and eliminates capital expenditures
Board of Directors
iSON Tower’s board of directors is led by its founder Vivek Gupta as Chairman. Previously, Gupta was CEO of Zamil Infra, iSON’s first joint venture with Zamil, a conglomerate in Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, Paul Maasdorp, a Managing Director and Partner at Emerging Capital Partners (ECP), an emerging markets private equity firm, sits on iSON Tower’s board of directors. Notably, Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) owns a 13.9% stake in IHS Holding (NYSE: IHS), while the firm has also partnered with iSON Tower in Bangladesh.
iSON Tower’s management team is led by Rajiv Jaitly as Chief Executive Officer.
Tower Companies in the Philippines
Overall, there are 20+ tower companies with licenses to operate in the Philippines. Beyond Peppertree Capital and iSON Tower, below are the deployment plans of select tower company competitors operating in the Philippines:
- American Tower: operates 239 sites in the Philippines, as of Q1 2022
- EdgePoint Infrastructure (DigitalBridge): acquiring 2.9k towers located across the Luzon Island group of the Philippines, from PLDT, in a $666m USD sale-and-leaseback transaction
- edotco Group (Axiata): pro forma for pending acquisitions, edotco’s owned portfolio will grow to 3.0k towers located primarily in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, in the Philippines
- PhilTower (Macquarie Capital): currently rolling-out more than 1k sites across the Philippines for mobile network operators Globe Telecom and PLDT
- Pinnacle Towers (KKR): builds and operates telecommunications infrastructure in the Philippines through its subsidiary Frontier Tower Associates. The company has undertaken BTS tower projects for mobile network operator Globe Telecom
- SBA Communications: plans to deploy a total of 1.47k telecommunications tower structures in the Philippines, over the next 5 years, with a total project cost of $205m
Most recently, reports indicate that Globe Telecom is considering selling ~50% of its telecommunications tower portfolio, representing 6.0k towers, through a sale-and-leaseback transaction.
Peppertree Capital – Overview
Peppertree Capital invests primarily in digital infrastructure, including the sub-sectors of towers, fiber, small cells, and distributed antenna systems (DAS). For example, Peppertree Capital’s digital infrastructure investments include:
- Blue Sky Towers: in February 2021, Peppertree Capital increased its funding commitment to Blue Sky Towers, a U.S. tower company, from $120m to $320m. Notably, Peppertree has committed both equity and debt financing to Blue Sky
- Everest Infrastructure Partners ANZ: in March 2021, Peppertree Capital invested $50m for Everest to acquire and develop wireless infrastructure in Australia and New Zealand
- Octagon Towers: in October 2019, Peppertree Capital acquired 1.0k towers in the United States from AT&T for $680m via a sale-and-leaseback transaction
- TowerCo: in January 2019, Peppertree Capital committed $300m of equity capital to fund future growth of the U.S.-focused tower company