Bouygues Telecom completes sale of 230 towers to Cellnex

Cell tower

Bouygues Telecom completed the sale of 230 of its mobile towers in France to independent tower company Cellnex for €80 million ($89 million), and has started the process to sell up to a further 270 towers in a second stage.

The sites are distributed throughout France, mostly in suburban and rural areas, with a small percentage in urban areas, and are mostly located on the ground with a low number situated on rooftops. The second phase is expected to close before Dec. 31 this year.

Spain-based Cellnex -- formerly known as Abertis Telecom -- said the acquisition of the Bouygues Telecom assets marks its first entry to the French telecoms market as well as the start of a 20-year collaboration with France’s third-largest telecoms operator. Cellnex said it already owns more than 16,100 sites in Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

A recent report by TowerXchange, which specialises in research into the telecoms tower industry, predicted that independent tower companies such as Cellnex would own 48 per cent of European mobile towers by 2020.

Commenting on the deal, TowerXchange CEO Kieron Osmotherly told FierceWireless:Europe that it’s a good time generally for mobile network operators “to cash in their chips” as competition heats up among independent tower players. He noted that the sale of tower sites has no adverse effect on MNOs, which are simply swapping capex for opex.

When the Bouygues Telecom deal was first announced in July, Gaëtan Le Bouedec, country manager for France at Cellnex, told TowerXchange that France was a particularly attractive country because of the expected growth opportunities ahead.

“It is expected to have more than 85 million mobile connections in 2016 with four main mobile operators, which means a lot of activities to be done regarding telecom network development,” Le Bouedec said.

He noted that the rollout of 4G and eventually 5G networks will also “demand a new leap in investment in mobile access points and supporting fixed infrastructure,” with a requirement for denser networks based on small cells and distributed antenna technologies.

In a broader analysis of the French towers market, Osmotherly said in a report France is “one of Europe’s most investible tower markets”, with a battle now underway among companies such as TDF and now Cellnex to secure more of the market’s mobile infrastructure.

Indeed, Osmotherly said JP Morgan has put out a teaser for the sale of FPS Towers, which owns 2,482 ground-based sites and has secured the rights to 20,000 rooftop sites in France.

With regard to Bouygues Telecom, Osmotherly said the collapse of consolidation talks with Orange earlier this year “was probably a pre-requisite to Bouygues’ tower sale to Cellnex” because a deal with Orange would probably have required it to sell some of its strategic assets to rivals Free Mobile and SFR.

Since the failure of the Orange talks, Bouygues Telecom has been pursuing a standalone strategy. However, on Friday the Bouygues Group was forced deny that it had restarted discussions with other mobile network operators with a view to consolidating the French market, saying this had been falsely claimed in an article published on BFMTV.com.

For more:
- see the Cellnex release
- see this TowerXchange report
- see this Bouygues Group statement

Related articles:
Bouygues Telecom to sell 230 towers to Cellnex for €80M
Report: 48% of Europe's mobile towers to be independently owned by 2020
Bouygues Telecom continues its recovery as Free powers ahead
Bouygues Telecom to sell 230 towers to Cellnex for €80M

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