May 9, 2019 / 1:23 PM / in 10 months

Spain's Cellnex still deal-hungry after $3 billion Iliad, Salt tower splurge

FILE PHOTO: A worker uses a lawnmower next to telecom antennas of Spain's telecoms infrastructures firm Cellnex in Madrid, Spain, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - Cellnex is still looking to buy assets, its chief executive said on Thursday, two days after the Spanish towers group splashed out 2.7 billion euros ($3.02 billion) on 10,700 mobile towers owned by French tycoon Xavier Niel.

Cellnex made good this week on a pledge to step up the pace of deal-making, unveiling the agreement with Niel’s telecoms firms, Iliad and Salt, which Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note could be worth up to 300 million euros in annual core earnings.

The Spanish group, which also agreed to open up to 4,000 new sites by 2027, is still “very pro-active in looking for projects”, Chief Executive Tobias Martinez told reporters in Madrid.

Martinez, who has repeatedly said Britain’s CTIL - a joint venture between Vodafone and Telefonica’s O2 - is an appealing target, insisted that making overtures to potential partners did not indicate specific deals were imminent.

“The company reviews everything, but the fact we ask what time it is does not mean we are going to build a clock factory,” he said.

Once this week’s deal is fully completed in 2027, Cellnex’s portfolio will contain more than 45,000 sites in six countries.

It posted a net loss in 2018 due to provisions for a layoff program, but returned to profit in the first quarter.

“We couldn’t do any big M&A operations last year, although we would have liked to. Every day we turn over every stone,” Martinez told shareholders at a meeting on Thursday.

Reporting by Isla Binnie and Andres Gonzalez; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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