Bidders expected to cue up following National Grid's plans to unplug their wireless tower group
November 16, 2006 - During a conference call today, National Grid's Chief Executive Steve Holliday informed analysts that the fourth largest publicly held utility company in the world is expected to spin off its wireless business towards the middle of the second quarter of 2007.
A spokesman for the utility said a demerger of the wireless business was the company's preferred disposal method as it would allow shareholders the option of retaining an interest in the business.
However, he said National Grid would also consider offers for the business, which analysts estimate is worth a minimum of $2.9 billion.
ATC could be suitor
Private equity firms, investment banks and possibly tower companies will be carefully viewing the acquisition opportunity. American Tower Corporation said earlier this week that it was actively seeking foreign investment if the opportunity fit its business model.
National Grid acquired Crown Castle UK's wireless infrastructure during 2004 for $2.1 billion in cash and has a US operation based in Boxborough, MA. The US subsidiary acquired 10 New England towers earlier this month from Silver Bow Communications, Inc. In October the company announced that it had acquired ClearShot Communications, LLC's 200 towers in the Eastern and Central US for $133 million, bringing their tower portfolio to approximately 450 structures.
The US group has been led by President and CEO Doug Wiest since 2002. Prior to his appointment, Wiest had been Chief Operating Officer of American Tower Corporation.
"We have an advisor appointed and we will run through the necessary steps. Demergers usually take around six months so we are looking at some time towards the middle of next year," Holliday said during the conference call.
National Grid Wireless US has regional offices in Clifton, NJ; Columbia, MD; Syracuse, NY; and Rochester, NY. National Grid's 270,000 electric transmission towers and over two million distribution poles are valuable assets for carrier sites in New England as well their over 100,000 acres of land for build to suit towers in the utility right-of-way and utility-owned property. They also have more than 300,000 miles of fiber.
In the UK, National Grid Wireless is the leading provider of infrastructure to mobile telecommunications operators with almost 14,500 sites.
Within the United States, National Grid is one of the ten largest utilities and has operations in Upstate New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire; and Nantucket Island while serving 3.3 million customers across this region.