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Cellnex can’t seem to resist a bit of UK M&A

Telco infrastructure giant Cellnex has opened its wallet once again in order to expand its UK presence.

The Spanish company on Monday agreed to acquire distributed antenna system (DAS) provider Herbert In-Building (HiBW), which up until now has been a division of retail technology group Herbert.

Under the deal, Cellnex will fold HiBW into its existing UK DAS business, forming a new entity called Cellnex UK In-Building Solutions (CUKIS). The unit will be led by HiBW’s current director, Tim Loynes.

Cellnex is known generally for its tower footprint, so it is easy to overlook its small but growing DAS and small cell division. In the UK alone, it has deployed 1,000 small cells, and its DAS clients include Manchester City football club’s Etihad Stadium, and supermarket chain Lidl, among others. In a statement, Cellnex said acquiring HiBW will bring in high-profile clients from the comms, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and government sectors.

“I’m really excited about the growth opportunities the acquisition of Herbert In-Building Wireless will create for our customers and for us,” said David Crawford, MD of Cellnex UK. “By combining HiBW’s agility and diverse customer portfolio with our current strong DAS business and ability to scale, Cellnex UK will be able to provide best-in-class solutions across all industries.”

The deal is also likely to up the ante with some of the other neutral host providers making waves in the UK. Two examples that spring to mind are BAI Communications and Freshwave. BAI, which caused a bit of a stir when it won the London Underground DAS deal, recently began an extensive programme of work with the University of Sunderland to deploy a 5G testbed that will support the rollout of smart city services. Meanwhile, Freshwave last month partnered with Three UK for the operator’s first indoor wireless deployments based on the Neutral Host In-Building specification. Their first client is shared office space provider Workspace. Freshwave – along with Cellnex – is also one of the suppliers for Virgin Media O2’s London small cell deployment.

“Joining the Cellnex UK team is the perfect next stage of growth for Herbert In-Building Wireless. Together as CUKIS, we have all the components to deliver a market-leading DAS offering to enterprises. I look forward to getting started and driving real growth for our customers and MNO partners,” said HiBW’s Loynes.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but it’s safe to assume that as far as the UK market goes, this deal is at nowhere near the same scale as Cellnex’s acquisitions of Arqiva’s towers and CK Hutchison’s towers in 2019 and 2020 respectively. This makes sense because Cellnex CEO Tobias Martinez said during the company’s first-half financial results call in late July that major European M&As are off the table for the time being, and that the company will instead focus on consolidating its position and organic growth.

Nevertheless, as this week’s news suggests, Cellnex still can’t resist a spot of inorganic growth when it spies an opportunity.

 

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