Cell Phone

For Cell Phone Tower Owners, the Wall Street Party May Be Ending

In recent years, the state’s three big mobile tower owners — SBA Communications, American Tower, and Crown Castle — have been enjoying a terrific run within the stock marketplace. Their collective shares are up 93% over the last three years, and feature outperformed the S&P through 46%, as the analysts at Wall Street firm New Street Research point out. “We in no way would have predicted the inventory action we’ve witnessed over the last year, at least with this velocity and depth,” agreed the analysts at Wall Street research firm MoffettNathanson in a current document. “American Tower at $209! Crown Castle at $134! SBA at $233! Wow. Since bottoming within the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the Towers (with the outstanding exception of Crown Castle) have meaningfully outperformed the S&P 500.”

Companies along with SBA and Crown Castle own a number of the mobile towers that AT&T and Verizon are striking their 5G antennas from. As a result, tower businesses can fee apartment charges for their “vertical actual property” at quotes that would make landlords in other industries blush. But the Wall Street analysts at MoffettNathanson, New Street Research, and elsewhere are warning that the good instances inside the tower zone are coming to a close and that the realities of 5G — as well as shifts within the tax code, Wall Street funding budget, and other economic realities — likely will drag on the sector for the foreseeable future.

“2019 may be the height of 12 months of pastime,” wrote the New Street analysts in the latest record on the tower zone. “The deployments of several spectrum bands drove a sharp increase in amendments for tower agencies in 2018, and we anticipated them to be even better in 2019. AT&T is driving most of the activity as they install AWS-three, WCS, and FirstNet spectrum, while T-Mobile’s 600MHz and, to a lesser quantity, Sprint’s 2.5GHz deployments have also helped. We count on amendments to peak in 2019 and to decline sharply in 2020. We do not foresee a main modification cycle until the spectrum is deployed for 5G. We count on macro site colocations to stay pretty solid over the forecast period, as companies shift densification efforts to small cells.” The analysts at MoffettNathanson largely agreed, writing that tower shares these days “do not offer much upside.”

In a prolonged and detailed report on the tower organizations’ financials, the MoffettNathanson analysts argued that SBA, American Tower, and Crown Castle have benefited from financial trends inclusive of actual property-oriented budgets and recently growing ownership in tower stocks. The firm said the latest decrease in company tax costs additionally, in all likelihood, raised interest in tower stocks. Other issues affecting tower stocks encompass changes in interest fees and the capital fee. However, uncertainties should affect tower corporations in the days, months, and future years — and that ambiguity ought to power investor hobby. Specifically:

The proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile stays in limbo. If the organizations can merge, the variety of large wireless network operators searching out cell tower space would be decreased from 4 to a few. On the other hand, the combined Sprint and T-Mobile has promised to dramatically raise its spending on its community in the years following the merger. The proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile could potentially create a fourth nationwide Wi-Fi community participant, probably Dish Network. In that case, Dish may want to develop into a new tower consumer, thus producing recent sales for tower businesses.

Wireless operator interest in deploying small cells keeps developing. Such gadgets are distinctive from well-known macro mobile towers because they’re small enough to sit atop light poles and other so-called “road furnishings.” However, it is unclear whether the small cellular trend will mainly affect SBA and American Tower (which are not investing in small cells) and Crown Castle (which has made a prime investment in small cells). “We continue to be skeptical that America’s small cellular marketplace will grow rapidly enough for Crown Castle to generate towerlike returns,” wrote the analysts at New Street.

Finally, the FCC is doggedly operating to release more spectrum for industrial services, which include 5G. Indeed, the company simply stated that it will sell 2.5GHz range at some point in the future and has scheduled a public sale of 37GHz, 39GHz, and 47GHz spectrum licenses in December. In all likelihood, C-Band and three.5GHz CBRS spectrum will also be quickly to be had. Operators will likely want to deploy the system on towers to position that spectrum to use.

Johnny J. Hernandez
I write about new gadgets and technology. I love trying out new tech products. And if it's good enough, I'll review it here. I'm a techie. I've been writing since 2004. I started Ntecha.com back in 2012.