Domestic rental and management segment revenue increased 10.6 percent to $465 million and operating profit increased 11.9 percent to $352.8 million for American Tower in the fourth quarter. Additionally, domestic core organic growth topped 8 percent, reflecting new leasing activity by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, according to a transcript of the fourth quarter earning call by Seeking Alpha
“This activity has been primarily generated by two of our largest customers as they continue to focus on deploying initial coverage for their 4G LTE networks nationwide,” said Thomas Bartlett, executive vice president, CFO and treasurer, on the fourth quarter earnings. “The remainder of our core growth was generated from the 850 sites we’ve acquired or constructed since the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2010, in addition to our newly acquired land interest.”
For the full year 2011, domestic rental and management revenue grew 11.4 percent to more than $1.74 billion, with domestic segment core revenue growth of 10.6 percent.
“We continued to see substantial leasing demand in the U.S. in 2011 … which along with the more than 450 communication sites and 1,700 third-party property interests we added during the year, led to these growth rates,” Bartlett said.
James Taiclet, American Tower chairman, president and CEO, noted that the tower company is set to achieve its goal of doubling its total site count from five years ago. In 2007, American had 22,400 sites in three countries, which is expected to have risen to 50,000 sites in 10 countries by the end of 2012.
“We still believe, based on direct interactions with many of our major customers, that tower-based macro sites will continue to be the primary choice for wide-area network development into the foreseeable future, with urban rooftops, distributed antenna systems and Wi-Fi offloads serving as complementary solutions,” Taiclet said. “As a result, we expect to continue to direct the bulk of our capex and acquisition spending to tower-based real estate.”
American Tower will continue to grow complementary coverage solutions, such as indoor DAS, on an organic basis, he added.
With the introduction of 4G and other next generation technologies, all of the signs point toward a flood of amendments at towers across the country as well as the need for additional sites. Does this give tower companies the upper hand in lease negotiations? Or can the carriers successfully keep a lid on rising rental prices?