Play Communications to put mobile towers package on the block, UBS advising - sources

31 July 2020 - 04:03 am UTC

by Nicholas Krause, Jurek Maczynski and Katka Krosnar

Play Communications has hired UBS as strategic adviser for the carve out and sale of its mobile towers in a deal likely to attract infrastructure funds, four sources familiar with the situation said.


Poland’s largest mobile network could launch a process to sell part or the entire package of assets as early 4Q20 or at the beginning of next year, two of the sources said.


The new “TowerCo” will include 6,000 telecoms towers and rooftop sites across the country and is expected to develop about 3,500 more by the end of 2021, the sources said.


Law firms Allen & Overy and White & Case have also been been hired to advise on the process, guiding the vendor on the carve-out and on the sale, respectively, the first and the third sources said. 


A spokesperson for Play Communications said the company is at “preparatory stage of separating its passive infrastructure to a dedicated subsidiary” and “any potential transaction is still behind the horizon”.   


Infrastructure funds such as Antin Infrastructure, Ardian Infrastructure, Allianz Capital Partners and Brookfield Asset Management, as well as Spanish telco Cellnex could be interested in the sale, one of the sources said. 


Cellnex has been particularly active in recent months, although it mainly bids for assets in western Europe and does not own any companies in eastern Europe. The company has nevertheless been branching out more recently, having acquired earlier this month Finnish telecoms company Edzcom, which builds and operates 4G and 5G networks. Cellnex said earlier this month that it would launch a EUR 4bn capital increase to fund future acquisitions.


Antin Infrastructure’s fourth fund, which also aims to invest a large amount of its capital in European telecom assets, raised EUR 6.5bn at final close last week, as announced.


Last month an Ardian-led team agreed with Italian telecoms operator TIM to buy an indirect stake equivalent to almost 15% in towers company INWIT for about EUR 1.3bn.


The sale of Play Communications’ unit is unlikely to happen before the conclusion of Cyfrowy Polsat’s disposal of its mobile towers unit, Polkomtel Infrastruktura, three of the sources said. 


Advised by BNP Paribas and Trigon, the Polish telecoms and broadcasting giant is aiming to release teasers for the sale of a stake in the subsidiary, which owns and operates some 8,000 mobile telecoms towers, in August or September, the second and fourth sources said. Sellside is trying to avoid the potential disruption caused by a possible second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, these sources added.


Polkomtel Infrastruktura is less likely to attract the interest of infra funds as it also owns active telecom technology assets such as 4G services, the second source said. Play Communications, on the other hand, is only selling its physical mobile towers, this source added.


Earlier this month Orange’s Polish subsidiary Orange Polska announced that it was looking to raise capital from investors to help fund further its roll-out of fibre broadband across the country.


UBS, Ardian, Allianz, Antin, Allen & Overy, White & Case and Cyfrowy Polsat declined to comment. Brookfield and Cellnex did not respond to requests for comment.