Crown Castle signs new leasing agreements with carriers
by Martha DeGrasse 4/19/18
Crown Castle's new contract with AT&T is not the company's only recently-signed leasing agreement. Today on the tower giant's first-quarter earnings call, CEO Jay Brown told investors that Crown has signed comprehensive leasing agreements with several top customers. CFO Daniel Schlanger added that those contracts "lead us to believe we are in the earliest stages of a period of sustained investment by those customers."
Brown said there is nothing "new or novel" about the agreements and that carriers were looking for time and certainty around the cost of deployment. The base escalators did not change, Brown said. Escalators are the annual increases in site rents, and they have traditionally been around 3% per year.
In response to an analyst question about the renewed potential for a Sprint-T-Mobile merger, Brown said T-Mobile US accounts for about 19% of Crown's site rental revenue and Sprint accounts for 14%, while the overlap is about 5%.
During the first quarter, Crown Castle's total site leasing revenue was $1.15 billion, a tiny $12 million of which was attributable to the new contract with AT&T. (That contract was not even announced until after the end of the quarter.) Site rental revenue was up 9.7% from the fourth quarter of last year, and up 35.4% versus the first quarter of 2017.
"So far this year we are seeing accelerating leasing activity across towers and fiber," said CEO Jay Brown. "2018 remains on track to be another great year for Crown Castle. ... We are seeing activity across macro sites and small cells from all four of the carriers."
Brown said more than half the small cell leases signed during the first quarter were for co-locations. He also said Crown booked as many small cells in the first quarter as during all of 2016, and added that the "small cell pipeline" has increased to 30,000 nodes, driven by activity across all four operators. Crown has put about 5,000 new small cells on air during the last year, Brown said.
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