In early-2005, we speculated on which cell tower company would end up purchasing Spectrasite (the contenders are listed below). In May of 2005, Spectrasire Communications, a rival cell tower company, was purchased by American Tower (AMT) for $3.1 billion. The acquisition expanded American Tower’s global portfolio to over 22,000 owned communications sites including over 21,000 wireless towers, 400 broadcast towers and 100 in-building DAS (Distributed Antenna System) sites. The merger further established American Tower’s position as one of the largest tower owner and operators in North America. Since then, American Tower has remained very competition.
On September 6, 2013, American Tower Corporation announced the acquisition of MIP Tower Holdings, the parent of Global Tower Partners. At the end of 2nd Quarter 2013, ATC owned nearly 28,000 towers in the US, and managed approximately 9-10K rooftops. It also owned over 34,000 international cell sites. The acquisition of Global Tower Partners adds approximately 5,400 towers in the US, along with 9,000 rooftop sites, and gives ATC an increased presence in several top urban markets, including New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Significantly, GTP’s towers have room to grow in terms of additional tenants, averaging two tenants each, compared with ATC’s 2.5 tenants, and have the capacity for four tenants. Because the towers have not reached capacity, they are ripe for carrier collocation.
Because of substantial, competing interests in ground leases by third-party buyout companies (especially those under tower company towers), ATC has been proactive (and some might say aggressive) in its efforts to acquire or extend its existing ground leases. This often leads the landowner to perceive that they must do something with their lease immediately, even when that’s not the case.
During 2014 Q1, AMT added 650 new assets to its portfolio, including 60 new U.S. towers. As of 2014, Q1, the average years remaining on its ground leases was 24 years (an increase of approximately one year from 2013Q1).
In 2014 Q4, AMT added and/ or extended 500 leases, with an average of 34 years remaining to term. Currently over 64% of its leases are associated with properties that have at least 20 years remaining until expiration. Of the towers ATC owns in the U.S., approximately 90% of them are on property where the tower in subject is the only lease the landowner has with ATC. That means that ATC is party to leases with over 20,000 individual property owners.
Spectrasite (SITE)- a national cell tower company- is the subject of a number of rumors including the AAT rumor posted earlier and a current one that has Crown Castle (CCI) purchasing Spectrasite. Crown, flush from selling European assets, should have the capital to conclude this deal. However, if SITE purchased AAT, would Crown still be able to stomach the acquisition?