The almost $1 billion deal will make Phoenix Tower International (PTI) the largest independent tower owner in Chile
Today, communications infrastructure specialist PTI has announced that it will acquire up to 3,800 mobile towers from Chilean mobile operator WOM.
The deal, worth $930 million, will see WOM transfer ownership of roughly 2,334 sites at the time of closing, with an additional 1,466 sites to be transferred by 2024.
The deal represents PTI’s first foray in the Chilean market and will immediately make them the market leader in terms of tower ownership.
“PTI is excited to enter the wireless infrastructure market in Chile. We have strong relationships with all four mobile network operators in the country, each of which will be deploying 5G networks in the near term,” explained Dagan Kasavana, CEO of PTI. “We are proud of our partnership with WOM and the continued expansion of the relationship that this transaction represents.”
Phoenix Tower International currently owns over 22,000 towers in 19 countries in North America, South America, and Europe, as well as various additional assets like rooftop sites, real estate, and a number of fibre networks in Mexico.
The company has been on something of an acquisition spree recently, having purchased US tower firm Tower Ventures Holdings III and construction engineering Technology Associates EC Inc. last year, both for undisclosed sums.
For WOM, meanwhile, the deal will provide additional funds for their burgeoning 5G rollout, as well as to expand coverage to rural areas.
“[The deal] enables us to strengthen our investment in Chile, particularly expanding 5G coverage from Arica to Punta Arenas over the next several months, as well as expanding coverage into rural areas of the country by delivering upgraded connectivity and contributing to a reduction of the digital gap,” explained WOM CEO, Sebastian Precht.
WOM is Chile’s fourth largest mobile operator, recording a market share of 22.6% in May last year and claiming around seven million subscribers.
This selling off of mobile towers in exchange for cash that can be invested in a more rapid network rollout is a trend being seen all over the telecoms world in recent years, with private equity companies viewing towers as a highly profitable and predictable long-term investment.
This month alone, we have seen Deutsche Telekom negotiating with European tower giant Cellnex over the fate of its German tower unit, Deutsche Funkturm, while, in New Zealand, both Vodafone and Spark are preparing major stake sales of their respective tower units.
In fact, when it comes to Chile, WOM is the last major mobile operator to make the move to monetise its tower assets.
Back in 2020, Chile’s largest mobile operator, Enel, sold roughly 3,250 of its mobile towers in both Chile and Peru to American Tower Corporation (ATC) for $772 million. A year later, in 2021, ATC purchased Telefonica’s tower company, Telxius, for roughly $10 billion, including those of Telefoncia’s Chilean subsidiary, Movistar Chile.
At around the same time, America Movil, parent company of the Claro Chile, had approved a plan to spin off all of its 36,000 Latin American mobile towers, creating a new entity called Sitios Latinoamérica.
Mobile tower ownership in Latin America and beyond are beginning to be consolidated at scale, gradually creating a small cadre of infrastructure giants that will wield enormous power in their respective telecoms markets.
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