FRANKFURT, July 16 (Reuters) - KPN has mandated UBS for a sale of thousands of cell phone towers of its German mobile phone service provider E-Plus, two people familiar with the matter said.
“Infrastructure funds are the most likely buyers for the asset,” one of the sources said on Monday, adding E-Plus would lease back the towers as part of the deal, that could fetch 300-400 million euros ($367.3-$489.8 million).
E-Plus, KPN and UBS declined to comment.
KPN had previously tried, and failed, to sell off E-Plus as a way to fend off Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who now owns roughly 28 percent of the Dutch company.
E-Plus has about 18,000 so-called base stations in Germany, comparing with 17,000 at Spanish Telefonica’s O2, and 22,000 each for market leader Deutsche Telekom and British group Vodafone.
“E-Plus’ towers have been upgraded relatively recently, so are generally speaking in good shape. However, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone have been much more aggressive in updating their stations to 4G technology”, a telecom analyst said.
The so-called fourth-generation mobile technology promises fast download speeds and is seen as crucial for the increasing volumes of data deployed by smart phone applications.
KPN and its telecom peers are under pressure to reverse the decline in revenues and profits brought about by competition-boosting regulatory measures and the rise of messaging apps that allow users to avoid charges for voice and text.
They also must invest heavily in networks to provide the extra capacity required to manage the smartphone and tablet revolution.
That need for funds is leading some to question, whether they can still afford their foreign empires at a time when they no longer have a growth story to tell investors, and so need to cut debt and protect dividends.
Telefonica, which is also seeking to raise funds, is pushing forward with plans to list its O2 Germany division.