Bouygues Telecom agreed to sell 230 of its mobile towers in France to independent towers company Cellnex for €80 million ($88 million), with the option to sell a further 270 towers in a second stage.
The towers are spread throughout France in mainly rural and suburban areas, but with a small percentage also located in urban areas.
Spain-based Cellnex -- formerly known as Abertis Telecom -- said it already owns more than 16,100 sites in Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. The acquisition of the Bouygues Telecom assets marks the company's first entry onto the French telecoms market.
The agreement between Cellnex and Bouygues Telecom includes a 20-year contract to provide services to the telecoms operator. Cellnex said Bouygues currently owns 15,000 sites in France and in recent years has launched a gradual process to separate and sell its non-core infrastructure assets.
France's third-largest telecoms operator has recently reverted to a standalone strategy after talks over a possible acquisition by Orange came to an end without any agreement having been reached.
Tobias Martínez, the CEO of Cellnex, stressed that the agreement with Bouygues Telecom is the beginning of a long-term collaboration between the two companies that could extend to other areas such as the construction of new towers on demand or the deployment of small cells for improved mobile broadband coverage.
"This deal strengthens our European scope and thus our ability for building a partnership with customers operating in different European markets to whom we can offer telecom connectivity solutions," Martínez added.
In May, Cellnex agreed to acquire 261 mobile telecoms sites from Protelindo in the Netherlands for €109 million. In June it bought small cells provider CommsCon in Italy for €18.65 million. The company is also active in the Internet of Things (IoT) sector, and in May rolled out a Sigfox low power wide area (LPWA) network in Valencia, Spain.
Cellnex further noted that France has 56,000 of the approximately 330,000 telecoms signal transmission towers in Western Europe, and said independent operators together manage more than 20 per cent of all the towers nationwide.
A recent report by TowerXchange, which specialises in research into the telecoms tower industry, predicted that independent tower companies would own 48 per cent of European mobile towers by 2020.
It was also recently reported that Deutsche Telekom could become the next European operator to sell off mobile masts in its domestic market. Citing unnamed sources, Reuters said the German telco had appointed Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to organise an auction, which the sources said was scheduled for the autumn.
- see this Cellnex release
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