January 20, 2015 — NTELOS Holdings has sold the last of its cell towers to private equity firm Grain Management, which invests in the media and communications sectors.
Michael Huber, chairman of the board of NTELOS Holdings, called the transaction an “opportunistic sale of non-strategic assets,” which will allow the company to focus on its West Virginia and western Virginia markets.
The agreement calls for the sale of 103 cell towers for $41 million or about $400,000 per tower. The transaction is expected to close in multiple installments during 2015, with the first installment expected to close in the first quarter. NTLS will enter into a lease agreement for the towers that provides it with access to reserve capacity.
In December 2014, NTELOS Holdings sold its 1900 MHz PCS wireless spectrum licenses covering eastern Virginia to T-Mobile for $56 million as part of a change in its strategic focus that expands LTE network build outs. At that time, the carrier announced it was exploring the sale of cell towers and undeployed spectrum in the eastern region.
“The tower sale does not come as a surprise, as NTLS signaled it was seeking to monetize its towers when it announced the divestiture of its eastern markets [in December 2014],” wrote Jennifer Fritzsche, Wells Fargo senior analyst. “The price per tower of $400,000, however, is higher than we expected, as we previously had assumed $100,000 per site when estimating NTLS’s core asset value.
Media Venture Partners served as exclusive financial advisor to NTELOS on the transaction.
December 3, 2014 — NTELOS Holdings, which provides the cellular network for Sprint in rural West Virginia and western Virginia, is selling its 1900 MHz PCS wireless spectrum licenses covering eastern Virginia to T-Mobile for $56 million as part of a change in its strategic focus that includes more LTE network build outs. NTELOS is also exploring the sale of cell towers and undeployed spectrum.
For NTELOS, the eastern markets have become more competitive and less profitable. Winding down operations in the eastern markets, which include Hampton Roads/Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia, will take 12 months and cost the carrier $55 million.
NTELOS plans to focus exclusively on its western markets to take advantage of its retail presence and strategic network alliance with Sprint, which will include an expansion of LTE service.
“The initiatives we announced today improve the strategic coherence of our business as well as enhance our ability to seek opportunities to leverage our strategic assets as we build out our 4G LTE network,” said Michael Huber, chairman, NTELOS Holdings, in a prepared release. “Focusing on our western markets, where we benefit from a strong branded retail presence and access to multi-band spectrum in the SNA territory, will allow us to make additional investments to improve the experience of our customers.”
Through the Strategic Network Alliance (SNA), Sprint customers have access to NTELOS’s LTE network and NTELOS has access to Sprint’s 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum. Earlier this year, NTELOS committed to expanding and building its LTE network in the SNA territory to specifications aligned with Sprint’s network modernization program.
J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of AGL Link and AGL Small Cell Link newsletters.