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Eir tipped to follow other Niel firms' towers sales



Infrastructure: Eir CEO Carolan Lennon

Infrastructure: Eir CEO Carolan Lennon

Infrastructure: Eir CEO Carolan Lennon

Eir is seeking a buyer for a portfolio of wireless infrastructure assets, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

The Dublin-based operator is working with an adviser to gauge interest in a collection of mobile towers, according to the people, who asked not to be identified.

Spain's Cellnex Telecom and Brookfield Asset Management are among potential suitors considering an acquisition of the assets, they said.

Investors continue to pursue infrastructure assets which offer steady returns, even as the market turmoil scuppers deal-making across a range of other sectors.

At least three fibre-optic network operators are pushing ahead with divestments in Europe.

Other companies controlled by French billionaire Xavier Niel, Eir's main shareholder, have also been selling assets, with Iliad and Salt Mobile agreeing last year to offload about 10,700 mobile towers in France, Italy and Switzerland to Cellnex for €2.7bn.

Former state-owned telecoms incumbent Eir - led by CEO Carolan Lennon - provides broadband internet, telephone, mobile and pay-television services. It is the biggest fixed-line operator and the third-largest wireless carrier here by customers.

Other bidders could still emerge for the assets, and there is no certainty the deliberations will lead to a transaction, the people said. Representatives for Eir, Cellnex and Brookfield declined to comment.

Cellnex announced its first deal of the year in January, buying a Morgan Stanley-backed tower venture in Portugal for €800m including debt. Last month, it expanded in the country further by agreeing to purchase 2,000 towers from NOS SGPS. It has also announced a €1bn agreement with Bouygues to build a fibre-optic network in France.

Shares of Cellnex, which reported earnings yesterday, were little changed at €48.16 at the close in Madrid. Cellnex has risen 26pc this year, giving the company a market value of about €18.6bn.

The value of announced infrastructure deals in the first quarter was $79bn, according to data provider Preqin, up from the $69bn agreed in the first quarter of 2019.

That is set to rise further, with other transactions in the works including a potential private-equity investment in Abu Dhabi's $15bn gas pipeline network, people with knowledge of the matter said last month.


Irish Independent