Verizon Plotting Tower, Wireline Sale Report

Dan Jones
News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

Verizon may reportedly be gearing up to sell cell towers and wireline assets for up to $15 billion to pay down debt and spectrum auction costs.

The Wall Street Journal quotes sources saying that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is pulling together an asset sale that could be worth up to $15 billion to cover debt to acquire complete control of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) for $130 billion, and its winning $10.43 billion bid on AWS-3 spectrum last week. (See Vodafone Agrees to $130B Verizon Stake Sale and Hey Big Spenders! AT&T, Dish & VZ Splash Cash on Spectrum.)

Initial down payments on the winning bids are due by February 13, with final payments due on March 2. This suggests that Verizon will want to wrap up any sale quickly.

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Verizon has up to 15,000 towers, according to Cowen and Co. A sell-off could net Verizon up to $5 billion, JP Morgan Chase stated last December. Any wireline sell-off could then add up to $10 billion to the deal.

Crown Castle International Corp. (NYSE: CCI) must be considered one of the leading contenders to buy up Verizon's cell towers. The company has already inked similar cell tower buyouts with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile US Inc. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) also leases space on more than 2,000 Crown Castle towers in the US. (See AT&T to Sell, Lease Cell Towers for $4.85B and T-Mobile USA in $2.4B Towers Deal.)

Crown Castle has the largest network of shared infrastructure in the US with 40,000 towers that cover 71% of the top 100 markets in the US. American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT) is the next largest player in the US with more than 28,000 towers across the country.

The wireless and wireline assets are likely to be sold off to separate bidders.

Verizon's shares are up 47 cents -- or 1.60% -- at $47.71 Tuesday afternoon.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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