MADRID (Reuters) - Cellnex, Europe’s biggest phone towers group, expects more deals to take shape in 2019-2020 after a recent $3-billion splurge on assets owned by French tycoon Xavier Niel, its chief executive said on Thursday.
“Now is the moment, 2019-2020,” Tobias Martinez told Reuters in an interview. “I see results materializing, because we worked in 2018 ... We expect to keep doing M&A deals.”
Cellnex has snapped up tens of thousands of phone tower sites in Europe in the past three years and is now considered a key player in consolidating the telecoms infrastructure market.
Telecoms network operators, faced with stagnant revenue growth, are looking for ways to maximize profit and cut debt. Martinez said they should change the traditional model of owning the masts through which they connect their customers.
“These are two years in which the big operators are asking themselves what to do with their towers. The strategic thing is not to own the towers, but to have access to the market.”
The company is most interested in continuing to buy assets in Western Europe, but would also consider Eastern Europe, he said.
Martinez said his interest in British masts company CTIL, a joint venture between Telefonica and Vodafone, had not abated with the prospect of Brexit, and he wanted to do more business in Britain.
“We want to be in Britain with Brexit or without Brexit,” he said, but added that the shape of an eventual EU exit deal could complicate matters as currency volatility could depress the value of assets and put their owners off selling.
Britain is currently due to leave the EU on October 31.
“If there is a soft Brexit or there is no Brexit, which we think are the most likely scenarios, Britain is a must.”
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Reporting by Andres Gonzalez and Isla Binnie; Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander. Editing by Jane Merriman