MIRA-led consortium pays $1.6bn for Crown Castle towers

The North American telecom infrastructure provider has agreed to divest its Australian subsidiary to a group comprising Macquarie, UBS and UniSuper.

Crown Castle International (Crown Castle), a New York-listed wireless tower operator, yesterday announced that it had signed a definitive agreement to sell its Australian subsidiary (CCAL) to a consortium led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA). 

The Sydney-based asset manager is teaming up with local pension fund UniSuper and Switzerland's UBS Global Asset Management to buy the asset for A$2.0 billion in cash (€1.4 billion; $1.6 billion). 

Houston-based Crown Castle will reinvest the proceeds of the sale of its 77 percent stake in the business into acquiring Sunesys, a US internet service provider. It will also use the cash for general corporate purposes including paying down debt. The assets sold currently represent approximately 5 percent of the company's portfolio.

“While CCAL has been a great contributor to our business, our decision to divest this business is opportunistic and allows us to re-allocate capital to growth enhancing initiatives in the US market, which we believe is the most attractive wireless market in the world for wireless investment,” said W. Benjamin Moreland, president and chief executive of Crown Castle. 

“The CCA business has the qualities that infrastructure investors around the world seek: stable revenues backed by long-term customer contracts, predictable cashflows, strong operating margins and growing customer demand,” added Frank Kwok, co-head of MIRA Asia-Pacific. 

The transaction, due to be closed during the second quarter of 2015, will be funded through a mix of equity and third-party debt finance, according to a MIRA statement. 

Sources close to the matter told Infrastructure Investor that there were no plans to upgrade the assets’ technology in the near future as the business, along with its 1800 towers and 100 rooftop towers, were currently performing very well. 

Since its establishment in 2000, CCAL has grown to become the largest independent tower operator in Australia with a nationwide portfolio covering all of the country’s states and territories.