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By Carlos Lopez Perea
MADRID (EFE Dow Jones)--Cellnex Telecom SA (CLNX.MC) won't rule out making more acquisitions this year and next after striking 2.7 billion euros ($3.02 billion) worth of cell-tower deals with France's Iliad (ILD.FR) and Switzerland's Salt Mobile SA last month, Chief Executive Tobias Martinez said in an interview with EFE-Dow Jones.
Buoyed by the recent success of its EUR1.2 billion capital increase, which took place in March and was subscribed by 98.8% of its shareholders, the Spanish telecoms infrastructure operator will prioritize growth in its existing markets--Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Switzerland--, Mr. Martinez said, though he didn't rule out entering new markets in the European Union if an opportunity arises.
At the moment, big telecommunications operators are shifting toward the externalizing of cell-tower operation by selling these assets in order to free up cash to invest in their business or reduce their debt. What Cellnex offers these companies isn't just to buy the infrastructure they want to divest, but to act as a long-term partner, helping its clients lower their operating costs.
The key to Cellnex's success in Europe is the support it offers to its clients in managing assets and the common goals they share, Mr. Martinez said, adding that Europe is the Spanish company's natural market thanks to the legal stability it offers.
Cellnex still has notable potential in the region, where it operated 45,000 out of a total of 400,000 cell towers. According to its chief executive, the deployment of 5G technology will be a tailwind for Cellnex.
Commenting on press speculation that Cellnex's next target could be the U.K. cell towers of CTIL, a joint venture between Vodafone Group PLC (VOD.LN) and Telefonica SA (TEF.MC), Mr. Martinez said the asset is attractive and would fit with the company's strategy, but that he approaches the possibility of a deal with "certain prudence" given the different possible ways in which Brexit could still play out. If the U.K. reaches an agreement for its departure from the EU, Brexit "shouldn't be an obstacle to invest heavily in the U.K.," but things would be different in the case of a "hard" Brexit, he said, as working out its implications for the country's relationship with the bloc would take time.
Regarding the conflict between the U.S. and China's Huawei Technologies Co., which is accused by the Trump administration of conducting espionage for China, Mr. Martinez said he believes decisions should be made "at the European level, not of one or two countries," though in his opinion, "there is no evidence that the Loch Ness monster exists." As for his company, its exposure to the U.S.-Huawei dispute is limited, as it doesn't operate infrastructure by the Chinese giant.
This story was translated in whole or in part from a Spanish-language version initially published by EFE Dow Jones, a partner of Dow Jones & Co.
Write to Carlos Lopez Perea at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 04, 2019 07:36 ET (11:36 GMT)
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