Sunday, 24 October 2021

Altice Portugal creates Infratower to offload sites to Cellnex

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 26 August 21

The sale will see Cellnex pay €209 million for its latest batch of Portuguese mobile towers

According to sources, Altice Portugal has set up a new business named Infratower, to which it will transfer around 700 mobile towers. This move is part of a wider deal with Cellnex that will see Altice hand over the new tower unit to the infrastructure giant for around €209 million. Portugal’s Competition Authority gave the deal the green light back in July, back when the burgeoning Infratower was still called simply &lsquo…

According to sources, Altice Portugal has set up a new business named Infratower, to which it will transfer around 700 mobile towers. This move is part of a wider deal with Cellnex that will see Altice hand over the new tower unit to the infrastructure giant for around €209 million.

Portugal’s Competition Authority gave the deal the green light back in July, back when the burgeoning Infratower was still called simply ‘NewCo’.

Cellnex’s appetite for European towers has been unmatched in recent years, most notably through an enormous $12 billion deal last year with CK Hutchison for its towers in various European markets.

 Many of these acquisitions have completed without a hitch, such as in Austria, Ireland and Denmark, where they were quickly cleared by the various regulators. In other markets, however, the process is still ongoing; Cellnex is currently facing a Phase 2 investigation from the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA), which is expected to make its report in early 2022.

In Portugal, Cellnex has also already made a series of recent purchases. In January 2020, it signed an €800 million contract to acquire OMTEL from Altice Europe. This deal netted Cellnex around 3,000 Portuguese cell sites, estimated at the time to be around a quarter of those in Portugal. Since then, the insatiable firm has purchased an additional 2,000 towers from Neos for €375 million, as well as 65 more from Onitelecom though OMTEL.

In total, this latest deal will give Cellnex around 5,800 telecom sites in Portugal, approaching half of all mobile sites in the country.

Naturally, a single entity coming to own almost half the mobile infrastructure in a single country could be cause for regulatory concern, but the Portuguese Competition Authority seems to have no such qualms, saying that the purchase equates to only a “slight change in market concentration, further strengthening the vertical disintegration of passive infrastructures vis-a-vis MNOs”. 

“It is concluded that the concentration operation is not susceptible to create significant barriers to effective competition in the market,” said the regulator. 

Cellnex said back in March that it had around €18 billion to spend on projects over the next 18 months, €9 billion of which was already committed to the acquisitions of Polkomtel Infrastruktura in Poland, Hivory in France, and the integration of Deutsche Telekom's towers and sites in the Netherlands. 

At the time, the operator said additional tower acquisitions could materialise in markets including Austria, Sweden, and Denmark.

 

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