American Tower Corporation (NYSE: AMT), through its subsidiaries, ATC Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. and ATC Telecom Infrastructure Private Limited (ATC India), which holds the company’s operations in India, announced on Friday that it signed a definitive agreement with Data Infrastructure Trust (DIT). The buyer is an infrastructure investment trust sponsored by an affiliate of Toronto, Ontario-based Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE: BAM). Once the deal closes, DIT will acquire 100 percent of the equity interests in ATC India. Total cash proceeds to American Tower at closing, subject to certain pre-closing terms, potentially represent up to $2.5 billion at today’s exchange rates.
American Tower undertook a strategic review of its operations in India late last year when its largest mobile network operator customer, Vodafone Idea, fell behind on leasing payments as VI endured market share losses to larger MNOs, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, and, at the same time, was unable to raise money to fund its operations, Inside Towers reported.
At the end of 3Q23, American Tower reported that it owned and operated 77,172 towers in India, out of its global total of 222,858 towers, making India its largest market by tower count. India accounted for roughly 11 percent of American Tower’s $2.8 billion global property revenues for the quarter.
The company has maintained a very active build-to-suit program in India for the past several years, averaging around 4,000 new tower builds a year in the 2020-2022 period. However, with its biggest customer in financial trouble, American Tower drastically scaled back its BTS program in 2023, and had built just under 1,000 sites through the first nine months of 2023, Inside Towers reported.
Brookfield is already established in India. DIT currently houses Brookfield’s telecom infrastructure businesses in India via Summit Digitel and Crest Digitel.
Summit Digitel owns 175,000 cell towers, and is the second largest towerco in India behind Indus Towers, which owns and operates over 204,000 towers across the country, according to Inside Towers Intelligence. This deal can establish Summit Digital as the largest tower company in India and one of the largest towercos in the world.
Summit Digitel’s sister company, Crest Digitel, builds and operates in-building wireless systems and small cells with a focus on airports and metro rail stations.
The transaction, which reflects the completion of the previously announced strategic review of American Tower’s operations in India, is subject to customary closing conditions, including government and regulatory approvals. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2024.
By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor