The American group Phoenix Tower International (PTI), self-declared “world leader in wireless infrastructure” announced, at the beginning of September, that it had acquired 1,978 mobile telecommunications towers in France. Located in “very dense urban areas” and throughout the territory, 1,226 sites host SFR branches and 752 sites of Bouygues Telecom facilities.
For the infrastructure operator, it is a question of responding to the demand for connectivity from mobile network operators (MNOs), in particular, in large cities. In total, PTI has more than 3,600 sites in France – “one of the most dynamic telecommunications markets in Europe” – and would be on track to operate, within two years, more than 5,000 sites.
Founded in 2013, the company, headquartered in Florida, manages more than 22,000 telecommunications towers in the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. In addition to France – its largest market in terms of the number of sites -, it is present in Italy, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus.
The group, which notably has the American investment fund Blackstone as shareholder, is positioning itself on the very lucrative TowerCo market. Namely these telecom infrastructure operators who manage and maintain pylons on which mobile phone operators install – for a fee – their 4G or 5G antennas.
SFR, Free, Bouygues Telecom have given in to Cellnex’s sirens
Born in the United States, this so-called TowerCo business model has been a resounding success in Europe in recent years. To get out of debt, telecom operators do not hesitate to sell their infrastructure to these new players.
In the role of the chief consolidator, we find the inescapable Cellnex. Valued at 25 billion euros on the Madrid Stock Exchange, the Spanish giant has bought the 10,500 French mobile sites of Hivory, SFR’s TowerCo, got hold of 70% of the capital of Iliad TowerCo, a subsidiary of Iliad, the parent company of Free and co-created a company with Bouygues Telecom.
At the risk of finding oneself in a situation of abuse of a dominant position. This is how PTI, with the approval of the Competition Authority, acquired SFR’s 1,226 sites.
Another player is making news on the European market: the KKR fund. After having seized, in tandem with the GIP fund, half of Vantage Towers, Vodafone’s TowerCo for 16 billion euros, he would be at the head of a consortium ready to acquire Deutsche Telekom’s towers for a price approaching 20 billion euros.
Orange takes the opposite of its competitors
Initiated in 2022, the sale of 45% of TDF’s capital to the Swedish investment fund EQT, on the other hand, has not yet been completed according to Les Echos. The sale of the 19,600 sites of the French operator for more than 8 billion euros would be on “forced pause”, due to the financing difficulties of the buyer.
Note that Orange has taken the opposite of its competitors. The incumbent operator intends to keep in its fold its TowerCo which operates more than 26,000 telecom sites in France and Spain.
Baptized Totem, it achieved a turnover of 685 million euros in 2022, an increase of 14.9%. This subsidiary will be “a central player in the consolidation of the sector in Europe,” said Christel Heydemann, the group’s chief executive officer, last February during the presentation of its annual results. Have a good hearing.