Vodafone Group plans to carve out its phone towers into a separate unit and consider an initial public offering, as it seeks to sell substantial stakes in the business to lower its debt.
It’s the boldest move yet by a European carrier to take advantage of private equity demand for telecommunications infrastructure. The business will own the continent’s largest tower portfolio of 61 700 masts in 10 countries, Vodafone said in a statement on Friday.
The separation, which will take effect by May 2020, follows a review started last year by Vodafone CEO Nick Read to consider ways to monetise the company’s infrastructure to help the cash-constrained carrier fund the roll-out of 5G mobile services. Vodafone said it’s received several offers for various parts of the tower portfolio.
Since then, Read has been pursuing tower-sharing with rivals and overhauling existing deals, including with Telefonica’s O2 in the UK and Telecom Italia’s Inwit.
Vodafone announced the towers plans alongside fiscal first-quarter financial results that beat analysts’ estimates. Organic service revenue fell 0.2%, compared to the average analyst estimate for a decline of 0.6%, according to a company-compiled consensus. — Reported by Thomas Seal, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP