The various markets for tower developers throughout Central, Latin and South America are very much like Forrest Gump’s mythical “box of choc-o-lates.” You never know what you’re going to get. TowerXchange tracks 297 towercos internationally who collectively own 68.8 percent of the world’s 4.6 million towers.
The diverse panel opening the conference for the TowerXchange Meetup Americasyesterday in Boca Raton covered a piece of that ground both geographically and topically as they explored the dynamic Latin American tower landscape. The panel consisted of moderator Jonathan Atkin of RBC Capital, Jim Eisenstein, CEO of Grupo TorreSur, Dagan Kasavana, CEO of Phoenix Tower, Katherine Motlagh, CFO LatAm American Tower, David Porte, SVP International Strategy and Business Development, SBA, and Maria Scotti, CEO of Torrecom.
Former American Tower CDO, Jim Eisenstein, said the largest market in South America, Brazil, is “not linear, it moves up and down.” Since most of the southern hemisphere countries are subject to occasional political upheaval, Eisenstein said the current pro-business government is encouraging while demand for 4G is high and carriers are spending money.
Eisenstein’s company has 6,500 towers in Brazil since getting into the market in 2010, having bought portfolios from three carriers. Grupo TorreSur owns the “vast majority” of the underlying ground their sites occupy.
SBA owns a similar footprint in Brazil (7,000 towers) and Porte said their challenge is that even though demand is high there, operators are restrained by what consumers can pay. Phoenix Tower’s Kasavana said the country is in a “golden age” with strong steady growth and solid lease-up rates.
The panel agreed across the board that, despite a roiling market for 4G, the coming of 5G in the southern hemisphere is close to a decade away. Torrecom’s Scotti said there is still a lot of macro infrastructure to build out before 5G can even be considered. SBA’s Porte said he hates the term “5G” as being so vague it’s meaningless, unlike 4G, which he compared to a sedan: “reliable, four doors, you know how it works.”
The Meetup concludes today with panels on “New Capital, Trends and Financing Models,” and a regulatory panel on “How to Ease Permitting and Deployment Regimes Across CALA.”
By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers
July 10, 2019