AT&T (NYSE:T) is reportedly close to agreeing to sell its tower portfolio to Crown Castle. According to Bloomberg, citing unidentified sources close to the matter, the terms of the deal have not been finalized and could still fall apart.
Bloomberg reported last month that AT&T was shopping its tower portfolio to potential buyers, including all the major U.S. tower firms. In September, experts estimated AT&T's tower assets could be worth $5 billion.
AT&T has about 10,000 towers, which generate about $326 million in annual revenue through lease agreements, according to JPMorgan research analyst Phil Cusick, who cited that figure in an August research note. AT&T and Crown Castle spokespeople declined to comment on the report, according to Bloomberg.
Experts say that consolidation in the U.S. cell tower market is inevitable and will likely come from carriers such as AT&T and others selling their non-core wireless tower assets. In an interview with FierceWireless at the PCIA Wireless Infrastructure Conference in Hollywood, Fla., this week, SBA Communications CEO Jeffrey Stoops said that besides AT&T, U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM) has also said it is considering selling its towers in markets it has divested, but not in its core markets. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) last fall sold the rights to 7,200 of its towers to Crown Castle for $2.4 billion.
"I think to the extent those carrier-driven portfolios do come to market, I think that is part of a carrier's grand plan to specifically go out and sell those assets and use the money for other things," Stoops said. "I don't think that same logic will apply to the public tower companies."
Global Tower Partners CEO Marc Ganzi agreed. "Those are the two major transactions that are logically left in the marketplace," he said in a separate interview with FierceWireless, referring to potential AT&T and U.S. Cellular tower sales. GTP just agreed to sell its U.S. tower assets to American Tower in a deal valued at $4.8 billion.
- see this Bloomberg article
SBA: Tower consolidation will come via sales from carriers
Report: AT&T may sell cell towers for as much as $5B
American Tower to buy smaller rival GTP for $4.8B
American Tower CFO sees potential for U.S. tower M&A
Report: Global Tower Partners could be sold for $4B
Analyst: Sprint's nationwide 2.5 GHz LTE network could be boon for tower companies