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Crown Castle Buys Tower Development, Expands Portfolio

Leading wireless tower operator Crown Castle International Corp. CCI has acquired Tower Development Corp. for a consideration of $461 million. Tower Development owns and operates 336 towers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico with an average of two tenants per tower.

Crown Castle expects that the deal will contribute around $25 million to $27 million to site rental gross margin in the first full year of the company’s ownership and be immediately accretive to its Adjusted Funds from Operations (AFFO) per share.

Wireless services are advancing rapidly in terms of additional features and capabilities. Much of the infrastructure and upgrades require effective site management of cell towers and equipment. Crown Castle exploits this opportunity as 96% of its quarterly revenues come from wireless service providers. As network capacity and speed increases, services such as mobile video, the connected car, and more broadly the Internet of Things, will spur demand for the company’s infrastructure.

At the end of 2015, Crown Castle had operations in 100 popular U.S. markets, with over 40,000 towers and roughly 17,000 small-cell nodes supported by around 16,000 miles of fiber backhaul. The company believes that its extensive portfolio of towers and small cells has the network density required to meet the growing demand. This should bolster the company’s top-line growth going forward.

Crown Castle has long-term (typically 5 -10 year) tower lease agreements with the top four U.S. carriers, which account for nearly 88% of its revenues. These agreements give the company the confidence to generate nearly $22 billion of revenues over the next 8 years. The company competes fiercely with American Tower Corp. AMT, SBA Communications Corp. SBAC and Equinix Inc. EQIX.

Crown Castle is also focusing on owning the land under its towers which can be given out on leases for a longer term. This is expected to fetch higher margins in the future. Nearly three-quarters of its site rental gross margin is generated from towers on land owned or leased for more than 20 years.

Crown Castle currently holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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