American Tower splurges $3.5bn on rival InSite Wireless

Coronavirus means the US-Canadian border remains closed, unless of course you're in a position to spend billions on a couple of hundred phone towers there.

Nick Wood

November 6, 2020

3 Min Read
telecommunications tower on mountain top

Coronavirus means the US-Canadian border remains closed, unless of course you’re in a position to spend billions on a couple of hundred phone towers there.

American Tower certainly is. The company on Thursday marked its entry into Canada by striking a $3.5 billion deal to acquire InSite Wireless. Admittedly InSite, like American Tower, is headquartered in the US – Virginia, to be precise – but its portfolio of 1,600 towers includes 200 north of the border. It also owns 70 distributed antenna system (DAS) networks in the US.

“This transaction augments our foundational US business through the addition of a well-run, high-quality, complementary, macro-tower focused portfolio, while also marking our entry into Canada,” said American Tower CEO Tom Bartlett, in a statement. “We believe that these assets are positioned to enhance our organic growth and cash flow trajectory in the future as 5G deployments accelerate and densification initiatives progress.”

It’s a good time for American Tower to get into Canada. Bell, Rogers and Telus all switched on their first 5G sites this summer, so the race for the best network coverage and quality is well and truly underway. That’s good news for towercos.

While 200 sites is nothing much to brag about in a country the size of Canada, it is nevertheless a foot in a very big door. InSite itself entered in Canada in 2012 with just 45 sites when it acquired Turris Sites. That deal added to a multinational footprint of towers that eventually spanned 40 US states as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“Nearly two decades ago, we set a goal to build a leader in wireless communications by providing critical infrastructure to wireless carriers and other customers,” said David Weisman, co-founder and CEO of InSite. “On behalf of InSite, I want to thank our customers, employees, and investors for their support and partnership over the years in building InSite into where it is today. We believe the acquisition of InSite by American Tower will result in even greater benefits for our customers in the future.”

American Tower is very clear about how it expects to benefit from this deal. The company said the addition of InSite’s towers and DAS networks should add $150 million to its property revenue and $115 million to its gross margin in its first full year. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2020.

Before this week, American Tower boasted 41,000 sites in its US portfolio. While that comprises just 22 percent of its global footprint, it was responsible for generating more than half of American Tower’s total Q3 property revenue. That came in at just below $2 billion, up 3.4 percent year-on-year.

The strong performance so far in 2020 prompted American Tower to raise the midpoint of its full-year property revenue outlook to $7.92 billion from $7.86 billion. It also raised its net income outlook to $1.91 billion from $1.86 billion, and its adjusted EBITDA outlook to $5.12 billion from $5.08 billion.

Expanding into another high-ARPU market like Canada will give another welcome boost to its finances.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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