Spark New Zealand began preparations to sell a stake in its new tower business to a third party, with plans to maintain a shareholding and be a long-term anchor tenant in the unit.

The operator appointed local investment bank Forsyth Barr and Jarden to manage the sale of 1,263 sites which it will transfer to Spark TowerCo, but cautioned there was no certainty a deal would close. It didn’t reveal the estimated value of any sale.

Spark owns about 1,500 towers, but the new unit which will manage its passive mobile assets will exclude about 250 sites related to co-location on third-party owned infrastructure.

Finance director Stefan Knight stated its future infrastructure needs will be very different from its current network build programmes, “requiring many more, smaller sites, closer to the end customer, and greater overall densification”.

In late February, Spark announced plans to set up an infrastructure subsidiary and explore raising capital by bringing in third-party investors.

Rival Vodafone New Zealand last month appointed UBS and Barrenjoey as its advisers for a tower sale. The operator also owns nearly 1,500 towers.