T-Mobile USA said today, that Crown Castle International has agreed to buy the rights to about 7,200 T-Mobile towers for $2.4 billion in cash to help its parent Deutsche Telekom pay back debt.
Over a minimum of 10 years, T-Mobile will maintain its communications facilities on the towers and will have the right, subject to certain limitations, to make modernization changes on the sites. The urban-focused Crown Castle said that 83 percent of the towers are in the top 100 U.S. markets and 72 percent are in the top 50 markets.
Crown Castle has the option to pay another $2.4 billion to buy the 7,200 wireless towers outright from T-Mobile USA at the end of the lease term for each tower – between 2025 and 2048 – under the deal announced Friday.
Houston-based Crown Castle International owns, operates and leases wireless towers and antennas. T-Mobile USA, which is spending $4 billion on a network upgrade, has been looking for ways to become more financially independent from its parent, which had tried to exit the U.S. market the year before. T-Mobile USA towers will now have Crown Castle as their landlord.
Crown Castle owns or control approximately 30,000 towers in the U.S. eclipsing rival American Tower’s stateside holdings by approximately 36%. Boston-based American Tower Corporation operates a combined 30,000 sites in the United States, Mexico, Brazil and India.
SBA Communications, founded in 1989 and headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, is the 3rd largest tower owner/operator. They bought more than 3,200 cell tower sites from TowerCo for $1.45 billion this summer, as it looks to capitalize on the rising demand for wireless data services.
Because they primarily act as landlords, consolidation of wireless carriers is generally bad news for tower owners, but the growth of 4G and wireless demand is expected to keep the business thriving.
Crown Castle said it expects the towers to generate about $125 million to $130 million in adjusted funds from operations before financing costs in 2013. Tower buyers expect to pay as much 12 times or more the unit’s cash flow.