Crown Castle International said Friday it would acquire 7,200 cellphone towers from Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile U.S.A. for $2.4 billion in cash.

Shares of Crown Castle edged down a fraction in midday trading Friday but are up 44% in 2012.

“CCI paid a very full multiple for the T-Mo assets,” Macquarie Capital analyst Kevin Smithen wrote in a report.

Smithen said American Tower was better off not trying to outbid Crown Castle. “We think that AMT exercised price discipline with regards to the T-Mo assets and would rather deploy capital in international markets rather than pay up for domestic towers,” he wrote.

T-Mobile USA will continue using the towers to provide wireless services. Crown Castle said the towers can accommodate radio antennas from at least one more wireless phone company.

Crown Castle estimates the T-Mobile towers will produce $125 million to $130 million in adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) before financing costs in 2013.

“The T-Mobile towers are similarly well-located, with 83% of the towers in the top 100 markets and 72% located in the top 50 markets. The T-Mobile assets are expected to provide significant growth driven by the continued demand for wireless data services, particularly in the most densely populated areas in the U.S.” Ben Moreland, Crown Castle’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Crown Castle said it will operate 30,000 towers in the U.S. after the deal closes, expected by year-end.

T-Mobile USA is raising cash to fund the build-out of a 4G LTE (long-term evolution) network starting in 2013.

“While we believe CCI’s (debt) leverage will increase significantly, we believe it is manageable,” Standard and Poor’s analyst James Moorman wrote in a report.

UBS analyst Batya Levi says Crown Castle may have less cash to return to shareholders through stock repurchases.

“With this deal, we estimate that CCI’s leverage will increase to 5.8x from its current 5x (cash flow) and will likely shift focus away from buybacks,” she said in a report.

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