Tower company Cellnex reportedly ruled out any further acquisitions in the European tower market over the next two years following a period of heavy investment, with CEO Tobias Martinez turning attentions to lowering debt and beating the effects of inflation.
Martinez told Financial Times (FT) M&A activity “is over” after spearheading the company through an acquisition spree over the past few years to make it the biggest tower company in Europe, the most recent of which was a €10 billion move to buy CK Hutchison’s towers in the UK, completed earlier this month.
“Material, inorganic growth for the next 24 months is over,” he said, explaining Cellnex aggressively pursued deals in the market over the last few years because of negative interest rates making “money almost free”.
In total, the company bought 130,000 towers across 12 European countries during the period.
Martinez cited inflation as one of the biggest issues facing the world, the “worst thing for everyone, individuals, societies companies. It’s damaging for the whole economy and no-one is escaping”.
Private equity doubts
Cellnex did not get involved in two recent major tower deals, perhaps a sign it was slowing activity.
Deutsche Telekom sold a major stake in its tower business to Brookfield Asset Management and Digital Bridge in July, while Vodafone Group offloaded part of its Vantage towers business to KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners.
Stakes in the businesses were sold at values more than 25 times EBITDA, valuing them at €17.5 billion and €16.2 billion, respectively.
Martinez told FT he didn’t believe such a business plan for the private equity players was viable, predicting they would struggle to sell the assets at a premium in the next seven years.
“The industry is about capex, it’s about investing. It’s not about running the company and doing nothing,” he said.