Telefónica’s Mexican operation sells towers

13 December 2011 | Guy Matthews

Pegaso PCS, the Mexican subsidiary of Telefónica, has agreed to sell around 2,500 towers to the American Tower Corporation in a $500 million deal. Subject to regulatory approval, American Tower expects to acquire the assets before the end of 2011.

"This acquisition nearly doubles our portfolio in Mexico and provides us with a highly desirable network of sites in this key market,” said James Taiclet, chairman and chief executive officer of American Tower. “We believe that our experienced local management team will secure strong growth on these towers as our customers in Mexico deploy new spectrum and next generation wireless technologies."

American Tower has been actively pursuing new opportunities in a number of emerging markets over the past year, and now operates 40,000 communications sites in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Peru and South Africa as well as its native US.

Earlier this year it struck a deal with African operator the MTN Group to establish a joint venture tower company in Uganda. The new venture, ATC Uganda, has acquired about 1,000 towers in the country from MTN’s Ugandan subsidiary after paying approximately $175 million.

A number of major operator names have been divesting their tower assets in order to fund the development of their businesses. The latest to consider such a stratagem is Bahraini incumbent Batelco, which recently said it weighing up a possible sale and lease back deal for its tower assets in Bahrain and Jordan. It said it is looking for a deal that would generate between $200 million to $300 million to provide a fund for potential acquisitions.

"We are exploring all options to unlock value for our business, and [selling] the towers is one of those options, but we have not made a decision on whether to lease them back or keep them — we are still going through the deliberations," said Peter Kaliaropoulos, Batelco chief executive of strategic assignments.