American Tower Corp evaluates stake offer in Vodafone Towers unit

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AmericanTower Corp. is considering entering the race for a stake in the 13 billion euro ($12.6 billion) wireless towers unit of Vodafone Group Plc, people familiar with the matter have said.

The US telecommunications infrastructure operator is exploring a possible investment in Frankfurt-listed Vantage Towers AG, the sources said, asking not to be identified while discussing confidential information.

Vodafone plans to sell part of its roughly 82% stake in Vantage and has invited suitors to participate in a bidding process. Private equity firms KKR & Co., Global Infrastructure Partners and EQT AB are already in the running, Bloomberg News reported last month. The Spaniard Cellnex Telecom SA has also studied the feasibility of an offer.

Deliberations are ongoing and it is not certain whether American Tower or Cellnex will decide to bid. Some of the interested parties could decide to form consortia and other suitors could also emerge, according to the people. Vodafone expects offers to be made as early as next week and could announce a new partner for Vantage next month, they said.

American Tower fell 3.5% to close at $194.63 in New York on Friday, giving the company a market value of around $91 billion.

Representatives for American Tower, Cellnex, Vantage and Vodafone declined to comment.

European telephone operators have started selling off infrastructure assets to raise funds for investments in costly fiber optic rollouts and wireless network upgrades, as well as to pay down their heavy debt loads. In July, Deutsche Telekom AG agreed to sell a majority stake in its towers unit to Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and DigitalBridge Group Inc. in a deal valuing the business at 17.5 billion euros. Cellnex also bid for the asset before giving up.

These assets, which carriers once considered essential to their business models, are attractive to investment companies thanks to their steady and predictable returns.

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