Since being named President and CEO of American Tower in March 2020, Tom Bartlett has taken a demonstrably different approach to who, and the pace at which American Tower acquires other tower companies and their sites, as compared to his predecessor, Jim Taiclet. Indeed, Bartlett has announced acquisitions involving targets worth a combined $13bn+ of transaction value since taking charge of American Tower.
Firstly, in November 2020, American Tower announced the acquisition of InSite Wireless for $3.5bn, adding 3.0k sites to its portfolio. InSite Wireless’ portfolio was primarily in the United States, but it also allowed American Tower to launch operations in Canada and Australia.
Secondly, in January 2021, American Tower announced the acquisition of Telxius Towers, from Telefónica, in a €7.7bn ($9.4bn USD) deal. Telxius’ portfolio added 30.7k tower sites in Germany, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Argentina.
Having now closed on its InSite Wireless acquisition, the vast majority of its Telxius deal, and completed the corresponding debt and equity raises for these transactions, American Tower is equipped to deal again.
As the world’s largest independent tower company, with a portfolio of 214k communications sites, American Tower needs to incorporate acquisitions into its capital planning, in order to continue growing its portfolio in a meaningful way.
Investment Capacity – American Tower’s Dry Powder
American Tower’s financial capacity for further acquisitions is also a key consideration. Importantly, the equity-intensive funding mix used to finance its Telxius acquisition, leaves the company with additional capacity for future activity.
American Tower’s funding sources for the $9.4bn Telxius acquisition were relatively evenly split with the company using ~47% debt and ~53% equity. Below is Dgtl Infra’s estimation of the funding mix, which is broken-down as follows:
- Common Stock Sale: $2.4bn from the sale of 9.9 million shares (includes over-allotments) in May 2021
- Institutional Equity: $2.6bn (€2.1bn) from CDPQ and Allianz (see below)
- Debt and Cash On-Hand: $4.4bn, which includes a €2.0bn issuance of Senior Notes in May 2021
Leverage Ratio – Targets
As of Q1 2021, American Tower had a Net Leverage Ratio (LQA) of 4.8x. However, given its pending Telxius acquisition, at quarter-end, and the company’s desire to “collaborate on future European expansion”, American Tower notes that it expects to take its “net leverage up to the high 5x range”.
Given American Tower’s significant use of equity to fund the Telxius acquisition, the company’s pro forma Net Leverage Ratio is currently estimated to be ~5.5x. Indeed, this implies the company can use a modest amount of leverage for additional acquisitions, assuming no incremental equity raise.
CDPQ and Allianz – Institutional Equity
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. For these sales, American Tower received €2.1bn in proceeds.
American Tower’s partnership with Allianz and CDPQ centers on the long-term growth and scaling of ATC Europe over time. In partnership with its new co-investors, Allianz and CDPQ, American Tower will evaluate future acquisition opportunities in Europe.
Potential Acquisition Targets by Region
With a clear appetite, financial capacity, and partners in-place for further acquisitions, we highlight below select sizable tower company targets which American Tower could acquire. Indeed, these examples are illustrative to present businesses that could “move-the-needle” within American Tower’s respective geographies.
Europe – American Tower to Acquire?
Through its acquisition of Telxius, American Tower has gained a scaled presence in both Germany and Spain. However, the company lacks scale in Europe’s second- and third-largest economies. Specifically, American Tower has no presence in the United Kingdom and remains sub-scale in France.
With only 3.1k towers in France as of Q1, American Tower could scale through both acquisitions and build-to-suit (BTS) commitments.
In France, TDF Infrastructure could be an acquisition target for American Tower. TDF Infrastructure owns 7.3k active sites in France, with marketable sites enlarging its portfolio by 11.7k sites to 19.0k sites. However, this total includes both broadcast and telecommunications sites. Specifically, the company owns 6.7k telecommunications sites.
TDF Infrastructure is owned by i) Brookfield Infrastructure with a 45% stake, ii) a combination of Arcus Infrastructure, APG, and PSP with a 45% interest, and iii) Crédit Agricole Assurances who owns the remaining 10% of the company. Notably, in 2019, Brookfield Infrastructure and PSP explored the sale, but ultimately did not sell, their combined 67.5% stake in TDF Infrastructure.
Presently, American Tower does not have operations in the United Kingdom. At the same time, Europe’s two largest tower companies, Cellnex and Vantage Towers control some of the largest tower portfolios in the country.
In the United Kingdom, Wireless Infrastructure Group, which owns ~2.0k towers, could be an acquisition target for American Tower. Wireless Infrastructure Group is currently owned by Brookfield Infrastructure, which invested in the company in 2019.
Latin America – American Tower to Acquire?
Through American Tower’s acquisition of Telxius’ towers in Latin America, the company has recently added sites in Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Argentina. Therefore, we look to other markets, namely Mexico, where American Tower could also grow its business through acquisition.
As of Q1 2021, American Tower had 9.8k sites in Mexico, making it the second largest owner of towers. Indeed, the company is only about half the size of Mexico’s largest tower company, Telesites, which owns 18.0k towers.
As a result, Mexico Telecom Partners (MTP), Mexico’s third-largest tower company, could be an acquisition target for American Tower. Specifically, MTP has 2.4k active sites and 5.1k total sites, including those with management rights, across Mexico.
Mexico Telecom Partners (MTP), which is reportedly up for sale, is owned by an entity of DigitalBridge (formerly Colony Capital) and the Macquarie Mexican Infrastructure Fund (MMIF).
Africa – American Tower to Acquire?
American Tower has grown its portfolio in Africa to ~20k towers, primarily through a series of acquisitions. Indeed, the geography will represent 14% of the company’s property revenue, pro forma for its Telxius acquisition.
The largest independent emerging markets-only tower company, IHS Towers appears to be running a dual-track process. Indeed, IHS Towers is pursuing both an initial public offering (IPO) and possible sale of the company. An acquisition of IHS Towers by American Tower would scale the company’s existing African markets and also provide it with an entry into new markets.
For example, American Tower owns 6.0k sites in Nigeria, while IHS Towers owns and manages 16.5k towers in Nigeria. At the same time, IHS Towers’ sites in Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Zambia, would be new markets for American Tower.
Notably, an acquisition of IHS Towers would also strengthen American Tower in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, with 4.2k additional sites.
Asia-Pacific – American Tower to Acquire?
American Tower’s acquisition of InSite Wireless allowed the company to launch operations in Australia. In turn, the company now has a platform to further scale, through acquisition in Australia. Additionally, in the Philippines, American Tower, through Transcend Towers Infrastructure, has already commenced build-to-suit (BTS) work for a wireless carrier.
In Australia, Optus’ tower company, which will comprise 2.3k of Optus’ towers and rooftop sites across Australia, could be an acquisition target for American Tower. Notably, Singtel is in the process of auctioning up to a 70% stake in the newly formed Optus tower company.
However, the Australian Financial Review does not report American Tower as one of the preferred bidders in the Optus auction. Instead, the preferred bidders include Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA), Axicom, Brookfield Infrastructure, QIC and its partner KKR, AustralianSuper, and the Symphony Consortium, which involves OMERS Infrastructure, Stilmark, and ATN International (NASDAQ: ATNI).
Other Notable Mentions
American Tower could also find acquisitions of TOTEM (Orange’s tower company), Grupo TorreSur, Tower Bersama, and sale-and-leaseback deals in Bangladesh as relevant acquisitions.