Cellnex Bidding on Antin Phone Towers, Interested in Telxius

  • CEO Martinez: ‘We are in a competitive process’ in France
  • ‘More than happy’ to talk with Telxius parent Telefonica

Cellnex Telecom SA is bidding on French wireless-phone towers being sold by Antin Infrastructure Partners, and would consider buying a stake in Telefonica SA’s infrastructure unit, Cellnex CEO Tobias Martinez said.

The sale process for Antin’s FPS Towers is at an early stage, Martinez said in an interview Thursday at a conference on the island of Capri in Italy. “That’s a very attractive portfolio in a market like France and we are in a competitive process,” he said.

Cellnex is also interested in Telefonica’s infrastructure assets, Martinez said. The Spanish phone carrier is considering selling stakes in the business, which contains towers and undersea cable assets, people familiar with the matter said Thursday. An initial public offering of the unit, Telxius Telecom SA, was canceled last month.

“We would be more than happy to start talking with them” if Telefonica reassesses its strategy, Martinez said, speaking on a terrace facing the Tyrrhenian Sea.

For more on Telefonica’s plans for Telxius, see this story

Cellnex, which buys and operates tower systems, has been growing as wireless carriers unload infrastructure assets to ease their capital-investment burdens. Cellnex expects to complete the purchase of a second phase of 500 towers from France’s Bouygues Telecom SA late this month, Martinez said. In general, the company is looking across Europe and seeks control of infrastructure assets so it can squeeze better returns from them, Martinez said.

Shares of Cellnex declined 0.5 percent to 15.72 euros at 10:15 a.m. in Madrid. Telefonica fell 0.9 percent to 8.82 euros.

Earlier this year, Barcelona-based Cellnex offered about 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) for all of Telecom Italia SpA’s mobile wireless tower unit Inwit, Martinez said. While the carrier’s new CEO, Flavio Cattaneo, decided to keep it, Martinez says the portfolio is still attractive and Italy is a key market, where Cellnex generates about one-third of its revenue.

“Inwit would have made for us a lot of sense at that time, but today a deal is not on table,” Martinez said. “If in the future Inwit changes its mind, we will be there.”

Xavier Niel’s Iliad SA is poised to become Italy’s fourth mobile carrier this year, after buying assets from CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. and VimpelCom Ltd., which are merging their Italian operations.

“Iliad will be one most attractive phone operators in Italy since they will have to build their own mobile networks, and we would be glad to manage it,” Martinez said. “That said, I think for us being neutral is a plus and we are ready to surf with everyone.”

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