One of this summer's bigger infrastructure rumors is getting closer to reality. A Reuters report on Friday says that Crown Castle has indeed made a bid for Lightower Fiber Networks. The bid is said to exceed $7B including net debt, and is now being considered by Lightower and its private equity owners at Berkshire Partners.
Lightower's network spans some 33,000 route miles hooking up as many as 22,000 on-net locations including more than 7,000 towers and small cells. Geographically, their supraregional network stretches from Maine in the northeast to Chicago to the west to North Carolina in the south.
Lightower has itself been quite aggressive over the past decade. The names it has subsumed include Fibertech, Sidera, Lexent Metro Connect, Veroxity, Open Access, Keyspan Communications, and Hudson Valley Datanet.
Rumors have swirled since last summer that Berkshire was ready to cash in, but this spring the action seemed to really get started. Other potential buyers could have been Zayo, Uniti Group, a cable operator such as Comcast or another private equity group. Yet, Zayo has been busy lately with a management reorganization and a growing focus on organic opportunities, such a deal is probably too big for Uniti Group at this stage, and despite being a favorite of analysts to eventually buy a fiber operator Comcast has been pretty quiet.
But lately Crown Castle has been quite aggressive, most recently acquiring Wilcon and FPL Fibernet, and since June they have been the favorite in the race to acquire Lightower. If it happens, it will be the company's biggest move so far. It might keep them busy for a while, but it probably wouldn't be the last fiber M&A for Crown Castle.
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