As last year ended, I predicted that fiber M&A activity in the USA would decrease for 2012. Zayo’s Dan Caruso set out to prove me wrong of course, with six of his seven acquisitions aimed at yet more fiber. But beyond Zayo, I seem to have been right because it was pretty sparse when it came to fiber-related deals.
Only a few other deals were announced this year in which substantial fiber assets changed hands, and not on a particularly large scale. On the mostly consumer side, Consolidated Communications took out SureWest. In the Pacific Northwest Wave Broadband is acquiring Black Rock Cable, although I’m not sure it has closed yet. In the Midwest, Unite Private Networks acquired Zito Media’s Nebraska network. And on the eastern seaboard it was private equity in the form of Baltimore’s GRI Fund taking over 24/7 Mid-Atlantic Network.
There were a few other deals for less-fiber based network assets of course. GTT purchased nLayer, Birch bought DayStar, and just this month Alpheus agreed to buy Net Star. But Zayo’s purchases of AboveNet, Arialink, FiberGate, US Carrier, First Communications, and now Litecast amounted to more fiber changing hands than the rest of the field combined. 2012’s M&A performance might be titled “Zayo and the No-Shows”, because the rest of the story is clearly what didn’t happen.
CenturyLink did not buy tw telecom, or anything else for that matter. They still might of course, but the October rumors have fizzled for now. Windstream didn’t buy anything to fill out its network in the west, nor did Level 3, tw telecom, Cogent, Cbeyond 0r Inteliquent do anything except window shop. Private equity-backed Sidera, Fibertech, Fiberlight, Lightower, DukeNet, Integra Telecom, et cetera made no moves at all.
Earthlink made no further fiber moves, as it worked on fleshing out its cloud-based transformation. Icahn neither sold XO nor used it as a platform to buy Broadview, despite making an initial approach. Nobody turned up to buy out FiberTower’s backhaul network or Broadview out of bankruptcy.
From the giants Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint nothing was heard that didn’t have to do with wireless spectrum. Comcast, Cox, TW Cable, and their brethren didn’t follow the FCC’s rule relaxation with a new wave of consolidation, at least not yet anyway.
Carlos Slim may have been buying in Europe, but he didn’t show up to buy fiber assets in the US and neither did any other of the potential international buyers from India, Japan, or Europe. Of course, it’s been a very long time since we’ve seen any of them here.
So what does this mean for 2013? Was it a lull, or is the consolidation phase coming to an end in the US? I’ll take a look at that in a later post.