AT&T leaves door open to selling non-core assets amid tower sale speculation

AT&T (NYSE:T) said it is open to selling some of its non-core assets, which might include wireless towers, after a financial analyst said AT&T is looking to offload its towers in a deal similar to ones that its smaller rivals have made.

"We've seen others in the industry sell noncore assets, and if we wanted additional flexibility, that could be an option for us too," AT&T spokesman Brad Burns told Bloomberg. "In all cases, our decisions are driven by what's right for the company and for our shareowners. So in that sense, nothing's off the table."

Burns also told Reuters that "any comments by analysts about potential sales are simply speculation" and that "the bottom line is we have attractive assets that could be a potential source of cash."

RBC Capital Markets analyst Jonathan Atkin wrote in a research note Thursday that AT&T is looking to offload its towers in a deal that could fetch as much as $5 billion. "We believe AT&T is actively considering the monetization of its tower assets in a similar fashion to several of its peers in the wireless industry," Atkin wrote. "We calculate that these assets could fetch mid-$5B or more for AT&T's 14,500 sites, based on recent tower-industry transactions and assuming roughly $400,000 per site."

Atkin wrote that American Tower would be the most likely buyer of such assets from AT&T "based on its low balance-sheet leverage and Crown Castle's and SBA Communications' focus on the integration of their recent acquisitions ... . Should an transaction take place, we would view it as an attractive source of cash for AT&T."

In September 2012 T-Mobile USA sold the rights to 7,200 of its towers to Crown Castle for $2.4 billion. T-Mobile used the money to help finance its network modernization and LTE deployment. That sale came after SBA Communications agreed in June to purchase all of TowerCo's 3,252 tower sites in 47 states across the U.S. and Puerto Rico for $1.45 billion, substantially increasing its domestic cell site footprint.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Investor's Business Daily article

Related Articles:
AT&T's Stephenson: We didn't execute well on T-Mobile deal
AT&T adds 780,000 postpaid subs in Q4, sells record 10.2M smartphones
AT&T will go live with Digital Life home automation service in March
AT&T scores AWS, 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum for LTE
T-Mobile sells towers to Crown Castle for $2.4B