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American Tower Puts the Wraps on an Excellent Year

By Matthew DiLallo - Feb 27, 2018 at 11:31AM

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The telecom tower REIT forecast solid growth again in 2018.

American Tower (AMT 0.69%) finished 2017 with a strong showing in the fourth quarter, which helped push its full-year results well past the midpoint of its guidance range. Driving those figures was the company's continued ability to acquire new towers as well as adding additional tenants to existing ones. Both of those trends should continue this year, driving the expectation that the company can keep growing at a brisk pace.

American Tower results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q4 2017

Q4 2016

Year-Over-Year Change

Revenue

$1.71 billion

$1.54 billion

10.7%

Adjusted funds from operations

$688.4 million

$631.0 million

9.1%

Adjusted funds from operations per share

$1.59

$1.47

8.2%

Data source: American Tower.

Cell towers with an orange sky and some clouds behind them.

Image source: Getty Images.

What happened with American Tower this quarter? 

Solid organic growth, as well as some acquisitions, powered American Tower's results.

  • The company's Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) segment continued its fast-paced growth rate, delivering a 19.5% year-over-year jump in revenue to $161 million. Driving that increase was a combination of the recent acquisition of FPS Tower in France and 8.3% organic tenant billings growth.
  • Revenue from the Latin America segment rose 16.2% to $308 million. This segment, likewise, delivered healthy organic tenant billings growth of 9.9%, while also benefiting from the acquisition of urban telecommunication assets from KIO Networks in Mexico.
  • American Tower's Asia segment delivered double-digit revenue growth of 10%, which boosted sales to $297 million. A 2.6% increase in organic tenant billings growth along with some acquisitions drove this segment's expansion. Meanwhile, the company is in the process of acquiring another 20,000 sites in India for $1.2 billion.
  • Finally, revenue in the U.S. increased 7.1% to $912 million due to 5.9% organic tenant billings growth and the acquisition of 517 sites in the country during the quarter.
  • For the full year, revenue rose 15.2% to $6.66 billion, which was above the company's $6.51 billion-$6.58 billion guidance range. Consolidated adjust funds from operations (AFFO), meanwhile, increased 16.5% to $2.9 billion, which was near the upper end of the company's $2.87 billion-$2.91 billion forecast.

What management had to say

CEO Jim Taiclet commented on what made last year a special one for the company:

In 2007, American Tower initiated a long-term aspirational strategy which included a target of quadrupling both the size of our communications site portfolio and our financial performance over a 10-year time horizon. Based on our 2017 results, we have far exceeded both objectives, with over 150,000 sites versus a goal of 100,000 sites, and $6.72 per share of Consolidated AFFO versus a goal of $6.00 per share. Moreover, in 2017, we delivered growth of nearly 16% in Consolidated AFFO per Share, expanded our return on invested capital, increased our common stock dividend by more than 20%, and repurchased approximately $770 million in stock.

American Tower has developed a reputation for exceeding its goals. It did that last year by delivering financial results above the midpoint of its guidance range, which enabled it to blow past the aspirational targets it set more than a decade ago.

Looking forward 

American Tower expects 2018 to be another good year, said Taiclet: "As we look forward to 2018, we expect strong organic tenant billings growth of over 6% in the U.S., driven by unlimited data plans, increasing mobile video consumption, announced spectrum build-outs in the 2.5 GHz and 600 MHz bands and the planned FirstNet deployment. We also expect consistent demand for tower space in Latin America, notably in Mexico and Brazil, as well as robust activity in our key markets in the EMEA region."

That forecast leads the company to believe that total property revenue will rise to $6.93 billion-$7.12 billion, which is 7% higher at the midpoint. Meanwhile, consolidated AFFO should be between $3.16 billion and $3.26 billion, which would be 10.6% higher than last year at the midpoint.

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