The sale comes with a price tag of roughly $2.7 billion and will see roughly 2,000 Australian towers change hands
Back in October last year, Singtel announced that it had sold a 70% stake in its wholly owned mobile infrastructure subsidiary, Australian Tower Network (ATN), to Australia’s largest pension fund, AustralianSuper, for $1.43 billion.
ATN’s assets comprised around 2,300 mobile network towers and rooftop sites. As part of the agreement, ATN also pledged to build a further 565 new towers in the coming three years.
Optus, Singtel’s Australian operator subsidiary, would continue to use ATN’s passive infrastructure to support their mobile services under the terms of a long-term lease agreement.
Now, a consortium led by AustralianSuper and ATN has announced they have won an auction to purchase Macquarie’s Axicom for A$3.58 billion (US$2.68 billion).
Axicom is Australia’s largest independent mobile tower operator, operating roughly 2,000 sites in metro and outer-metro locations across Australia. Thus, following the deals conclusion, ATN will own around 4,300 towers in total.
For comparison, Telstra’s InfraCo Towers, which became Amplitel last year, owns around 8,000 towers.
"This acquisition is a unique opportunity to scale up ATN’s operations and expand its customer base," said Singtel Group’s Chief Corporate Officer, Lim Cheng Cheng. "It also reinforces Singtel’s commitment as a long-term investor in the Australian telecoms space."
The purchase means that Singtel’s stake in ATN has been somewhat diluted; AustralianSuper will hold an 82% stake in ATN, with Singtel owning the remaining 18%.
Investor appetite for mobile tower infrastructure has been enormous over the past few years, with firms viewing these assets as reliable sources of steady long-term growth. Enormous deals are being made all over the world, perhaps most notable among them Cellnex’s purchase of all of CK Hutchison’s European towers in 2020 for roughly €9 billion.
For AustralianSuper, it seems that this surge of investment is highly likely to continue, with the company targeting additional digital infrastructure businesses for M&A over the coming years.
"AustralianSuper is looking to double its infrastructure portfolio over the next five years from its current A$31 billion," said AustralianSuper’s head of infrastructure, Nik Kemp. "We believe that there will be significant growth in demand for digital infrastructure and will actively consider future opportunities in this space."
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