Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel), the parent company of Australian wireless carrier Optus, today announced that it has sold 70% of Australia Tower Network (ATN), a wholly-owned subsidiary which operates Optus’ passive telecommunications tower infrastructure. Specifically, Singtel sold this majority stake in Australia Tower Network (ATN), which comprises 2.3k mobile network towers and rooftop sites, to AustralianSuper, Australia’s largest superannuation fund, for A$1.9bn ($1.37bn USD).

Transaction Overview – Singtel Sells Optus Towers to AustralianSuper

Overall, AustralianSuper’s 70% stake purchase from Singtel of Optus’ towers implies an enterprise value for 100% of the company of A$2.3bn ($1.66bn USD). Therefore, based on this valuation for Optus’ towers, the transaction infers an Enterprise Value per tower of A$995k ($717k USD) per tower, on the 2.3k tower sites.

For the pro forma FY21 financial period, ATN expects to generate A$117m of revenue and A$62m of EBITDA. As such, AustralianSuper’s valuation of ATN represents a FY21 pro forma EV/EBITDA transaction multiple of 38x. Finally, following completion of ATN’s planned build-to-suit (BTS) program, the EV/EBITDA transaction multiple will reduce to 28x.

Proceeds

Singtel is receiving net cash proceeds, after transaction costs, of A$1.9bn ($1.37bn USD), which will strengthen the company’s balance sheet. Specifically, Singtel’s sources of proceeds are:

  • Sale Shares: A$0.9bn paid by AustralianSuper (AS Infra Tower Pty Ltd) in consideration for the shares to Singtel ATN
  • Capital Return: A$0.5bn as a return of capital by ATN to Singtel ATN
  • Optus Loan Repayment: A$0.5bn as the full repayment of outstanding loans by ATN to Optus

In aggregate, Singtel is generating a net gain on disposal of A$0.4bn for its 70% interest in ATN. Additionally, Singtel will continue to hold a 30% stake in ATN. This minority stake will enable Singtel to benefit from colocation growth, given the potential to increase the number of third-party tenants on ATN’s existing towers.

Australia Tower Network (ATN) – AustralianSuper Backing Optus Towers

AustralianSuper will manage Australia Tower Network (ATN) as an independent tower company with a portfolio of 2.3k existing towers and rooftop sites. Presently, these sites have a tenancy ratio of 1.6x, equating to 3.7k tenants with equipment on the company’s towers.

Master Service Agreement (MSA)

Optus will continue to have access to its tower infrastructure through a 20-year master service agreement (MSA) with Australia Tower Network (ATN). Further, this MSA includes options to extend its duration.

Additionally, Optus will be the anchor tenant on a minimum of 565 new build-to-suit (BTS) towers. These towers will be built by ATN over the next three years.

AustralianSuper

AustralianSuper’s investment in Australia Tower Network (ATN) marks the fund’s first digital infrastructure investment in Australia. Beyond the digital sector of infrastructure, AustralianSuper has invested over A$24bn in infrastructure globally.

Singtel and Optus – Transaction Rationale

Singtel is retaining the use of ATN’s towers, via access arrangements, for use by Optus’ network in Australia. As such, the transaction will preserve Optus’ network quality, while proceeds received from the sale will support the wireless carrier’s 5G roll-out across Australia.

At the same time, ATN’s minimum commitment to construct 565 new build-to-suit (BTS) towers, will accelerate Optus’ 5G network deployments.

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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