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Cellnex revenues surge after acquisition spree

Telecoms infrastructure giant Cellnex has reported a revenue jump of 48% following an aggressive acquisition spree over the latter stages of 2019 and early 2020.

Over the first six months of 2020, Cellnex reported revenues of €723 million, an increase of 48% year-on-year, while EBITDA was up 64% to €527 million. The net result for the half was a loss of €43 million, though this is of course acceptable when you consider the growth by acquisition strategy which has been in place at the firm.

Cellnex acquisition activities
Acquired from Location Date No. of towers Cost
Iliad Italy, France 7 May 2019 7,900 €2 billion
Salt Switzerland 7 May 2019 2,800 €700 million
BT UK 5 June 2019 220 £100 million
Cignal Ireland 10 Sept 2019 200 €210 million
Orange Spain 4 Dec 2019 1,500 €150 million
OMTEL Portugal 2 Jan 2020 3,000 €800 million
NOS Portugal 14 April 2020 2,000 €375 million

Aside from these agreements to purchase tower assets, the business has also reserved cash to invest in joint ventures and also custom build programmes with anchor tenants throughout the European continent. The expansion plans from Cellnex are certainly aggressive and ambitious.

“The Company continues to operate under the principle of maximum responsibility and prudence during the pandemic in relation to our customers, whose services have been unaffected; to our suppliers, to whom we have offered mechanisms to speed up receipt of payments for services and supplies; to our employees, who continue to work normally and guarantee the continuity of operations,” said CEO CEO Tobias Martinez.

“At the same time, the Group has delivered several new growth operations, including in Portugal and France as well as the purchase of Arqiva’s Telecommunications division in the United Kingdom earlier this month, a decisive operation for the consolidation of our European project.”

Although the 48% jump is certainly an attractive one, it would be unreasonable to expect these gains to continue through the coming months and years. The Cellnex business model is a slow burner, a realisation that telecoms infrastructure will not go out of fashion, conversely, these assets will become more popular.

The overarching trend which is currently in play works very well for companies like Cellnex. Telecoms operators are in need of cash, therefore selling assets is a difficult decision some will have to live with. These companies might regret the move in a few decades, but the financial pressures of 5G and full fibre are forcing the hand of many CEOs. Without owning the passive infrastructure, these telecoms operators will be at the mercy of the infrastructure giants for decades to come.

The business model for the infrastructure companies like Cellnex is simple. Build infrastructure to lease to telecoms operators who need somewhere to house their active equipment. There might be anchor tenants which keep the lights on, but when these sites are designed for multi-occupancy there are certainly profits to be made.

This is not a business which will roar up the charts with monstrous profits, but the demand for passive infrastructure is only going to grow in the future. This is a slow burner, but it could be a very profitable one in the future; once a tower is up, its up.

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