Tom Bartlett, American Tower’s Chief Executive Officer, stated, “Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we delivered a solid first quarter, including U.S. organic tenant billings growth of 5.6%, consistent international leasing activity and a 20% dividend increase. We believe that the resilience and stability of our business model, our investment-grade balance sheet, substantial liquidity and the secular global growth trends in mobile data usage will help us manage through the ongoing crisis.”
During an analysts call, Bartlett said,“While we’re continually monitoring the COVID-19 impacts, our business model globally has demonstrated its resiliency and stability. Now more than ever, our infrastructure is incredibly critical to ensure our tenants are able to keep their customers connected.”
He said that in many of their served markets, including the U.S., they have received official priority designations that enable tower-related work to continue, largely uninterrupted. In a few locations, American Tower has experienced some limitations and restrictions, particularly with respect to new builds and other discretionary tower work, he noted.
“In fact, in certain locations, new construction is currently prohibited,” Bartlett said.
“While these impacts have so far been modest, we do expect some slight delays in our new build pipeline and colocation activity in certain areas, but do believe these delays will be temporary,” Bartlett said.
Drones are in play
From an operational perspective, over the past year, American Tower’s U.S. team has been focused on automating tasks to reduce cycle times, implementing a fleet of drones to secure more accurate data on our sites and implementing several new innovative contract structures, providing process efficiencies for both ourselves and our tenants and reducing the need for site-specific evaluations, Bartlett explained.
CFO Rod Smith said in reference to the T-Mobile acquisition of Sprint, that American Tower is anticipating an acceleration of spending to begin in the second half of the year. In addition, beyond 2020, he believes there will be a sustained increase in wireless industry capital spending as 5G deployments ramp and Dish supports its network.
Smith said that during the quarter American Tower built 1,000 new sites, but he didn’t identify how many were constructed in the U.S. In their full year 2020 outlook American tower said that it anticipates building 5,000 to 6,000 communications sites globally.
Former CEO Jim Taiclet was lauded by analysts during the call for his leadership over the years.