Orange to separate towers, eyes consolidation

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The prospect of a long-awaited consolidation of the European telecom towers industry has come tangibly closer with confirmation that Orange is planning to carve out the masts that it owns into separate entities by geography.

Orange’s chief executive Stephane Richard makes it clear that Orange intends to retain a controlling stake in these companies indefinitely but indicated that part of the purpose of the initiative is to enable others to participate in the consolidation of the sector or in partnerships with Orange in the mast sector.

Speaking on 4 December, Richard says that he hopes that the new regional companies would initially be owned entirely by Orange but in due course, Orange would assess additional options to “participate either in some regional consolidation opportunities or consider various monetisation options.

Richard does not give a timescale for this, nor does he mention specific companies that he has in mind who might participate in the consolidation. Orange has around 59,000 towers around the world of which 15,000 are in France, and analysts estimate that the business is worth around €10bn.

Separately, Orange has also sold a portfolio of 1,500 towers in Cellnex to Spain €260m but Richard discouraged the expectation that this is the start of a widespread disposal process. Rather, he said that this is part of a process of “pragmatic disposals of less strategic towers.”

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