Crown Castle Remains Steady

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Crown Castle continues to focus on steady execution against a relatively stable spending backdrop. That came out of a meeting between Amir Rozwadowski of Barclays, Crown Castle CEO Ben Moreland and CFO Jay Brown at last week’s CTIA conference in Las Vegas.The executives appeared comfortable in the outlook for 6-7% AFFO per share growth going into 2016 given new leasing activity signed in 2015, small cell growth plus the lapping of churn headwinds, Rozwadowski wrote.  Crown Castle, like American Tower, has not seen a recovery in spending from AT&T just yet. Many analysts predicted that the carrier’s infrastructure spending would spike once the DirecTV deal was closed. The Crown Castle execs did note that they are optimistic about AT&T’s long-term investment needs. Sprint’s network build out plan was discussed, and Rozwadowski wrote that the carrier is in the early stages of executing its network transformation strategy, but spending should increase down the road.

Small cell technology has been a big focus for Crown Castle, and the company sees it as a sensible alternative for capital deployment. “According to management, the company can achieve year 5 macro site returns in the first year of ownership (~7-8% based on past comments).  Higher initial yields reflect a greater level of operating risk (i.e. the cost of pulling fiber to support the cells) vs. the traditional tower leasing business,” Rozwadowski explained. The management team expects growth in small cells to remain robust given support from T-Mobile and Verizon, along with Sprint’s upcoming densification initiatives. Barclays has an Equal Weight/Neutral stock rating on Crown Castle with a price target of $89.

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