Billionaire Niel’s Irish Carrier Plans Mobile Tower Sale
(Bloomberg) -- Eir, the Irish phone carrier controlled by billionaire Xavier Niel, is seeking a buyer for a portfolio of wireless infrastructure assets, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The Dublin-based operator is working with an adviser to gauge interest in a collection of mobile towers, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Spain’s Cellnex Telecom SA and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. are among suitors considering an acquisition of the assets, the people said.
Investors continue to pursue infrastructure assets that offer steady returns even as the market turmoil scuppers dealmaking across a range of other sectors. At least three fiber-optic network operators are pushing ahead with divestments in Europe, Bloomberg News has reported.
Niel’s other companies have also been selling assets, with Iliad SA and Salt Mobile SA agreeing last year to offload about 10,700 mobile towers in France, Italy and Switzerland to Cellnex for 2.7 billion euros ($2.9 billion).
Eir provides broadband internet, telephone, mobile and pay-television services in Ireland. It’s the biggest fixed-line operator and the third-largest wireless carrier by customers.
Other bidders could still emerge for the assets, and there’s no certainty the deliberations will lead to a transaction, the people said. Representatives for Eir, Cellnex and Brookfield declined to comment.
Cellnex announced its first deal of the year in January, buying a Morgan Stanley-backed tower venture in Portugal for 800 million euros including debt. Last month, it expanded in the country further by agreeing to purchase 2,000 towers from NOS SGPS SA. It has also announced a 1 billion-euro agreement with Bouygues SA to build a fiber-optic network in France.
Shares of Cellnex, which reports earnings Thursday, were little changed at 48.16 euros at the close in Madrid. Cellnex has risen 26% this year, giving the company a market value of about 18.6 billion euros.
The value of announced infrastructure deals in the first quarter was $79 billion, according to data provider Preqin, up from the $69 billion agreed in the first quarter of 2019. That’s set to rise further, with other transactions in the works including a potential private-equity investment in Abu Dhabi’s $15 billion gas pipeline network, people with knowledge of the matter said last month.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.