With strong leasing activity from the big four carriers, Crown Castle International saw site rental revenue increase $132 million, or 21 percent, to $747 million for the first quarter 2014 from $615 million, year over year, tower company executives said during last week’s earnings call.
“CCI reported strong 1Q14 results (excluding $5 million of one-time benefits) with site leasing revenue, site cash flow, EBITDA and AFFO above expectations,” wrote Jonathan Atkin, RBC Capital Markets analyst.
During the quarter, Crown Castle spent $111 million on revenue-generating capital expenditures, including $75 million on existing sites and $36 million on the construction of new sites, primarily small cell construction activity. About 85 percent of new leasing activity is coming from new installations.
“Our current application pipeline leads us to expect new leasing activity per quarter for the remainder of the year to be approximately 15 percent higher compared to the level we experienced in the first quarter 2014,” said Ben Moreland, Crown Castle president and CEO.
Jay Brown, company CFO, added, “Most of that is new tenant installation on sites rather than amendments as we’ve seen over the last several years. So it’s site densification and them adding additional sites.”
Crown Castle’s first quarter results were the first since it closed on the deal in which AT&T leased the rights to 9,000 of its wireless towers and sold 600 more to the tower company for $4.8 billion.
“Adjusted EBITDA increased 20 percent, driven by the inclusion of the AT&T towers, an increase in site rental gross margin and strong performance of our network services business, and offset to a small degree by increased G&A, which was up about 8 percent year-over-year,” Brown said. “This increase in G&A includes the effect of increased staffing to manage our T-Mobile and AT&T tower transactions, which increased our tower portfolio by nearly 75 percent, and the significant growth of our small cell networks.”
Verizon Wireless and AT&T are currently focused on network densification, while T-Mobile and Sprint work to complete their LTE coverage deployments so they can begin their densification efforts, according to Moreland. Based on the 3G build out, which ran from 2002 to 2009, LTE is still in the early stages of deployment, he added.
“Given the revolutionary nature of 4G, we have reasons to believe that the 4G LTE deployment cycle will be even longer than the 3G cycle,” Moreland said. “And in order to meet Cisco’s projected 8-times increase in mobile data demand, we believe carriers will continue to invest over a multiyear period. This multiyear deployment cycle gives us confidence in the long runway of sustained organic revenue growth.”
Sprint and T-Mobile are expected to begin densification of their LTE networks in 2015 once coverage build outs have been completed.
“We expect increasing contributions to sector demand starting in the late second half of 2014 from T-Mobile’s 700-MHz build out and Sprint’s deployment of 8T8R LTE technology, though we believe CCI’s ability to monetize 700-MHz amendments from TMUS could be slightly impaired versus peers,” Atkin wrote.
Crown Castle expects 3 percent of its run-rate site rental revenues to be negatively affected by the iDEN network decommissioning, which is spread evenly throughout 2014 and 2015.
HOUSTON, Oct. 20, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Crown Castle International Corp. (NYSE:CCI) announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Crown Castle will acquire rights to approximately 9,700 AT&T towers for $4.85 billion in cash at closing (subject to certain limited adjustments). Under the definitive agreement, Crown Castle will have the exclusive right to lease and operate the AT&T towers for a weighted average term of approximately 28 years. In addition, Crown Castle will have the option to purchase the towers at the end of the respective lease terms for aggregate option payments of approximately $4.2 billion, which payments, if exercised, would be primarily between 2032 and 2048.
“We are very pleased with our agreement with AT&T, which strengthens our position as the largest provider of shared wireless infrastructure in the US, which we believe is the largest, fastest growing and most profitable wireless market in the world,” stated Ben Moreland, Crown Castle’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Consistent with our focus on the top 100 U.S. markets, nearly half of the AT&T towers are located in the top 50 markets, where we expect the majority of network densification and upgrade activity to occur.
“With an average of only 1.7 existing tenants per site, we expect the AT&T tower assets to provide significant growth opportunities driven by the continued consumer demand for wireless data services. While this transaction increases our tower count by approximately 33%, the transaction consideration represents only approximately 15% of our enterprise value. Additionally, we believe this transaction strengthens the credit quality of our revenue, with pro forma 84% of our consolidated site rental revenue coming from the Big 4 US wireless carriers. Further, we expect the impact from the contemplated transaction and related financings to be slightly accretive to our 2014 adjusted funds from operations per share and 5% accretive to our long-term adjusted funds from operations per share,” he added.
AT&T has contracted to maintain its communications facilities on the towers for a minimum of 10 years with monthly rent of $1,900 per site and fixed annual rent escalators of 2%. AT&T will also have access to additional space on the towers for its future use, subject to certain restrictions. Crown Castle will have the right to sublease other available capacity on the towers to additional tenants and believes the AT&T towers have sufficient capacity to accommodate at least one additional tenant per tower.
Crown Castle estimates the AT&T towers will contribute approximately $245 million to $255 million to its Adjusted Funds from Operations (“AFFO”) before financing costs in 2014. Crown Castle expects to fund the transaction with cash on hand and equity and debt financing, including borrowings under its revolving credit facility. Following the contemplated transaction, Crown Castle will continue to be the largest wireless infrastructure operator in the US with approximately 40,000 towers throughout the US and extensive small cell operations in over 50 markets. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2013, subject to customary closing conditions.
Crown Castle has scheduled a conference call for Monday, October 21, 2013 at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss the transaction, as well as its third quarter 2013 results. Crown Castle plans to release its third quarter 2013 results on Monday, October 21, 2013, at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The conference call may be accessed by dialing 480-629-9722 and asking for the Crown Castle call at least 30 minutes prior to the start time. The conference call may also be accessed live over the Internet at http://investor.crowncastle.com. Any supplemental materials for the call will be posted on the Crown Castle website at http://investor.crowncastle.com.
A telephonic replay of the conference call will be available from 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, October 21, 2013 through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, October 28, 2013 and may be accessed by dialing 303-590-3030 using access code 4644535. An audio archive will also be available on the company’s website at http://investor.crowncastle.com shortly after the call and will be accessible for approximately 90 days.
Crown Castle is being advised by Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP as legal advisor.
The sale of AT&T’s towers was predicted Jonathan Atkin, RBC Capital Markets last spring. The drums are again beating for a sale, according to Bloomberg, which reported that TAP Advisors and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are working on the sale.
The sale of the AT&T’s towers is an obvious way for the carrier to raise cash to fund its network upgrades, said to have a price tag of $14 billion.
In March, Atkin estimated that a deal could bring in mid-$5 billion or more for AT&T’s assets which include 14,500 sites, assuming roughly $400,000 per site. The portfolio includes 10,500 wireless tower sites plus additional assets such as wireline towers, distributed antennas systems and other infrastructure.
“We believe the AT&T towers and related assets have a tenancy level of >1.5 and could generate total cash flow in the low- to mid-$200 million range, although this depends on the specifics associated with the potential sales/leaseback terms,” Atkin wrote in March. Other analysts put the cash generated by the towers at more than $326 million in annual revenues.
Possible buyers are probably limited to Crown Castle International, SBA Communications and American Tower, which just purchased Global Tower Partners for $4.8 billion and NII Holdings’ 2,790 towers in Brazil and 1,666 towers in Mexico for $413 million and $398 million, respectively. SBA Communications expanded operations in Brazil with 2,113 towers to the tune of $302.6 million in July and 800 towers for $362.8 million in December 2012.
Because of those acquisitions, Jennifer Fritzsche, Wells Fargo senior analyst, said SBAC and American Towers are too heavily leveraged or otherwise too busy at this time to purchase the AT&T towers. That leaves Crown Castle as the logical buyer, according to Fritzsche. It has been almost a year since Crown Castle purchased T-Mobile’s portfolio of 7,180 towers for $2.4 billion.
Date(s): Sep. 9, 2013 7:00 AM
HOUSTON, Sept. 9, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Crown Castle International Corp. (“Crown Castle”) (NYSE:CCI) today announced that it is commencing the steps necessary to reorganize Crown Castle to qualify as a Real Estate Investment Trust (“REIT”) for tax purposes. Crown Castle expects to elect REIT status beginning with the taxable year commencing January 1, 2014.
“We are delighted to announce this plan for conversion because we believe REIT status is the optimal structure for our business given the real estate nature of our assets,” stated Ben Moreland, Crown Castle’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We believe a REIT structure will lower our weighted average cost of capital and provide additional opportunities for creating long-term shareholder value. Further, we expect our conversion to a REIT to have little to no effect on our operations, and we intend to continue our focus on maximizing long-term adjusted funds from operations per share through growth and disciplined capital allocation.”
Crown Castle’s determination as to the timing and amount of future dividend distributions will be based on a number of factors, including investment opportunities around its core business and its existing federal net operating losses of approximately $2.7 billion. Crown Castle does not expect to make any distribution (commonly referred to as a “purging” dividend) prior to its REIT conversion.
Crown Castle expects to operate in compliance with the REIT rules beginning January 1, 2014. Crown Castle also expects to take certain actions in 2014 in order to facilitate its compliance with the REIT rules by seeking adoption of certain charter provisions that implement certain standard REIT-related ownership and transfer restrictions. Implementation of these steps will be subject to shareholder approval and final board approval. The REIT election is subject to the completion of all necessary steps of the aforementioned conversion plan and final approval by the Crown Castle Board of Directors.
Crown Castle has received an opinion from each of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, which firms advised Crown Castle on its REIT conversion, that Crown Castle will qualify as a REIT as of January 1, 2014.
About Crown Castle
Crown Castle owns, operates and leases towers and other infrastructure for wireless communications. Crown Castle offers significant wireless communications coverage to 98 of the top 100 US markets and to substantially all of the Australian population. Crown Castle owns, operates and manages over 30,000 and approximately 1,700 wireless communication sites in the US and Australia, respectively. For more information on Crown Castle, please visit www.crowncastle.com.
Cautionary Language Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements that are based on management’s current expectations. Such statements include Crown Castle’s plans, projections and estimates regarding (i) its intention to convert to a REIT and the timing thereof, (ii) the potential advantages, benefits and impact of, and opportunities created by, converting to a REIT, (iii) its strategy and growth, (iv) its cost and allocation of capital, (v) its future earnings and profits, (vi) dividend plans and (vii) its intention to pursue certain steps and corporate actions in connection with its conversion to a REIT. Such forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including prevailing market conditions and the following:
Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those expected. More information about potential risk factors that could affect Crown Castle and its results is included in Crown Castle’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The term “including,” and any variation thereof, means “including, without limitation.”
Crown Castle expects to take certain steps and corporate actions in connection with the proposed REIT conversion, and, in connection therewith, it may seek shareholder approval. If Crown Castle seeks shareholder approval, it will file a proxy statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to be used in connection with the related shareholder vote. INVESTORS ARE URGED TO READ THE PROXY STATEMENT (INCLUDING ALL AMENDMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTS THERETO) IF AND WHEN IT BECOMES AVAILABLE AND ANY OTHER RELEVANT DOCUMENTS FILED WITH THE SEC BECAUSE THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION. You will be able to obtain documents free of charge at the website maintained by the SEC at www.sec.gov. In addition, you may obtain documents filed with the SEC by Crown Castle free of charge by contacting Investor Relations, Crown Castle International Corp., 1220 Augusta Drive, Suite 500, Houston, Texas 77057, (713) 570-3000, or you may visit the investor relations section of our website at http://investor.crowncastle.com for copies of any such document.
Crown Castle, its directors and executive officers and certain other members of management and employees may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from Crown Castle’s stockholders. Information regarding the persons who may, under the rules of the SEC, be considered participants in the solicitation of proxies will be included in any related proxy statement. Information about directors and executive officers of Crown Castle and their ownership of Crown Castle stock is set forth in the proxy statement for Crown Castle’s 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders. Investors may obtain additional information regarding the interests of such participants by reading the proxy statement if and when it becomes available.
This communication does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or a solicitation of any vote or approval.
CONTACT: Jay Brown, CFO Fiona McKone, VP - Corporate Finance Crown Castle International Corp. 713-570-3050
With all four major U.S. carriers making major network upgrades, tower companies continue to be the beneficiaries in increased leasing activity. Crown Castle saw revenue from additional tenants double in the second quarter, reflecting the shift in activity to in-fill sites collocation on small cells as well as macrocells, Ben Moreland, Crown Castle president and CEO, told the second quarter earnings call.
“This densification activity is the expected second wave of the LTE network deployment and provides us with a longer runway of expected future growth as carriers strive to improve network quality and to add capacity through cell splitting in the face of continued growth in mobile technology demand, he said.
The cellular industry is seeing a faster adoption of smart phones, compared with the initial uptake of 3G phones, which Moreland said the tower company uses to gauge where the industry is in the technology cycle, as well as the long term growth trends.
“To gain a framework for LTE build-outs, it is useful to compare how the 4G subscriptions is trending compared with 3G subscriptions historically,” he said. “From 4Q 2010 to the 3Q 2012, the first eight quarters of LTE, we have seen subscriptions significantly outpace the initial eight quarters of 3G, which began 1Q 2003.” LTE user growth could top 180 million by the end of 2013 and 260 million by 2017, he added.
Site rental gross margin, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) for the second quarter all exceeded Crown’s expectations, according to Jay Brown, Crown Castle’s chief financial officer.
“As a result of our strong results in the second quarter and the significant increase in new leasing activity, we have increased our full year 2013 outlook, which now suggests annual site rental revenue and AFFO per share growth of 17 percent and 35 percent, respectively,” Brown said. “In addition, we continued to invest in activities we believe will maximize long-term AFFO per share, including purchases of our common shares and the construction of small cell networks.”
During the second quarter of 2013, Crown Castle invested $101 million in revenue-generating capital expenditures, including $66 million on existing sites and $35 million on the construction of new sites, primarily small cell networks. Additionally, acquisitions accounted for $14.5 million in capital expenditures.
“CCI’s report is significant in our view in that it should set the tone for the other tower companies’ (AMT and SBAC) reports to follow. As we have written, we continue to believe the overall tone of these reports will reflect a bullish outlook regarding domestic wireless spending,” Jennifer Fritzsche, senior analyst, Wells Fargo, wrote in an equity research note.