Wednesday, 8 Apr 2020

Spanish Telecom giant buys Irish tower firm Cignal in €210m deal

French investment fund Infravia Capital Partners will reap the bulk of the €210m sale of Irish telecoms infrastructure company Cignal to Cellnex.

The deal values Cignal chairman and ex-Esat Digfone and Digicel executive Donal O’Shaughnessy’s 2.4pc stake in the business at around €5m. Cignal CEO Colin Cunningham, another Esat Digifone old hand is also a small shareholder.

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Cignal’s majority shareholder Infravia’s other assets in Ireland include the Mater Private Hospital and nursing homes operator CareChoice.

The Paris-based investment group manages over €4bn in assets globally.

Cignal was launched in 2015 with the acquisition of a portfolio of 300 communications towers from state-owned forestry company Coillte, bought for around €70m.

The most recent accounts for Cignal for the year to the end of 2017 show it had assets of €89.1m.

As part of the deal, management and staff will continue to run the business under the Cignal name in Ireland.

The company currently owns 546 telecoms tower sites across the country, having significantly expanded over the past four years, investing in both acquisitions and new towers.

The buyer will stick with a previous commitment to invest an additional €60m to build up to 600 new sites by 2026, to improve broadband access and mobile phone coverage in rural areas.

Once this build-to-suit programme is fully rolled out, new owner Cellnex estimates that additional earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation, and amortisation of around €20m will be generated for the group.

The acquisition and future investment will be financed through available cash and future cash flows from Cellnex Ireland, the Spanish-listed company said.

Cignal chairman Donal O’Shaughnessy said that Cellnex shares Cignal’s vision of “continuing to invest in improving Ireland’s tower infrastructure.”

A veteran of the telecoms sector, Mr O’Shaughnessy was a member of the Esat Digifone technical team involved in the roll-out of its network in Ireland.

He then moved to Digicel where he spent 10 years in the Carribbean and Central America working in various roles, including CEO.

Mr O’Shaughnessy owns 50pc of investment platform Kilcullen Kapital Partners.

Cignal CEO Colin Cunningham is also an Esat Digifone veteran, having commenced his career at the group.

Cellnex already operates in Spain, Italy, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, the UK. Its business is structured in four areas, telecommunication infrastructures services, audio-visual broadcasting networks, security and emergency service networks and solutions for smart urban infrastructure and services management.

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