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By Malathi Nayak
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc will sell wireline assets to Frontier Communications Corp for $10.54 billion in cash and cell phone towers worth over $5 billion to American Tower Corp, the company said on Thursday.
The assets being sold to Frontier and American Tower are the latest in a series of non-core assets that Verizon has sold in recent months to reduce debt and raise cash for investments.
The Frontier deal is expected to close in the first half of next year and is subject to regulatory approval, Verizon said.
Frontier will acquire Verizon’s local wireline operations in California, Florida and Texas, including 3.7 million voice connections, 1.2 million FiOS video connections and 2.2 million broadband connections, Verizon said.
The company said it will lease over 11,300 towers and sell 165 towers worth $5.06 billion to Boston-based American Tower.
Moreover, Verizon on Thursday announced plans to buyback shares worth $5 billion.
The largest U.S. carrier by subscribers, Verizon purchased 181 licenses worth $10.4 billion in a government sale of wireless airwaves for mobile data that closed last week. That came on top of $130 billion it spent in 2013 to buy from Vodafone the 45 percent in its wireless unit that it did not already own.
Verizon has been exploring steps to speed up its debt repayment and divest assets to help fund repurchasing some shares it issued after it announced the Vodafone deal.
The company will use capital raised in these two transactions to invest in upgrading its network, deliver shareholder returns and repay debt, Chief Executive Lowell McAdam said in a call with investors after the announcement.
“We remain committed to getting back to our pre-Vodafone transaction credit rating profile in the 2018 to 2019 time frame.” McAdam said.
The company has been investing heavily in growing its wireless business while reducing spend on its broadband Internet and telephone services.
Frontier did a similar deal in 2009, when Verizon sold 4.8 million rural phone lines to Frontier for $8.6 billion in stock and cash.
Shares in Frontier soared over 8.5 percent after closing at $7.70 in trading after market close on Thursday. Shares in Verizon and American Tower were relatively unchanged after closing at $47.86 and $99.59 respectively. (Reporting by Malathi Nayak; editing by Andrew Hay)