The ever-expanding usage of mobile data around the world continues to benefit American Tower (NYSE:AMT), which was able to deliver strong organic growth in the third quarter by securing additional tenants for its existing towers. On top of that, the company reached a comprehensive solution with a customer in India to address the weakness in that market as mobile carriers continue to consolidate. Those factors position the company for even stronger growth in 2018.

American Tower results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q3 2018

Q3 2017

Change (YOY)

Revenue

$1.79 billion

$1.68 billion

6.2%

Adjusted funds from operations

$821.0 million

$748.0 million

9.8%

AFFO/share

$1.85

$1.73

6.9%

Data source: American Tower. YOY = year over year.

What happened with American Tower this quarter? 

The company continued to fill up its existing towers.

  • Revenue in the company's U.S. segment rose 5.9% versus the year-ago period to $958 million, driven by strong organic tenant billings growth of 7.4% as mobile carriers continued making investments in 4G technology to meet steadily expanding data and video demand.
  • Asia was also strong, with revenue rising by 8.6% to $323 million. While organic tenant billings declined 12% due to issues in India, total billings surged 13.2% due to the acquisition of 20,000 tower sites in India earlier in the year.
  • Revenue in Latin America grew 2% to $304 million, driven mainly by an 11.3% increase in organic tenant billings.
  • Revenue in the company's Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) segment rose 7.1% year over year to $167 million thanks mainly to a 6.7% rise in organic tenant billings.
Cell towers with an orange sky behind them.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

CEO Jim Taiclet commented on the quarter:

In the third quarter, our U.S. property segment delivered strong Organic Tenant Billings Growth of 7.4%, reflecting ongoing investments in 4G technology by our tenants to meet ever-increasing data and video demand. Our International property segment also experienced strong demand for tower space, especially in Latin America. Normalizing for Indian Carrier Consolidation Churn, International Organic Tenant Billings Growth was 8%.

American Tower continues to benefit from the tailwind of strong demand for tower space in both the U.S. and Latin America, which helped drive revenue and cash flow higher during the quarter. Those dual growth drivers are helping offset weakness in the Indian mobile market due to a consolidation wave among its tenants, which is leading them to also consolidate tower space.

The company took steps to address that issue by reaching a comprehensive agreement with Tata Group shortly after the quarter ended. The deal will release Tata from some of its leases in exchange for a one-time payment of $320 million.

Looking forward 

The deal with Tata, when combined with stronger-than-expected organic growth in the U.S. and Latin America, are driving American Tower to boost its full-year forecast:

Metric

Updated Guidance

Midpoint Growth Versus 2017

Prior Guidance

Midpoint Growth Versus 2017

Total property revenue

$7.2 billion to $7.26 billion

10.1%

$6.84 billion to $6.97 billion

5.2%

Adjusted EBITDA

$4.58 billion to $4.62 billion

12.5%

$4.255 billion to $4.315 billion

4.8%

Consolidated AFFO

$3.47 billion to $3.5 billion

20.1%

$3.2 billion to $3.26 billion

11.3%

Data source: American Tower.

The bulk of that increase is due to the one-time impact from the Tata settlement, which will bolster revenue and adjusted EBITDA by $300 million while providing a $250 million boost to consolidated FFO.

Matthew DiLallo owns shares of American Tower and has the following options: long January 2019 $80 calls on American Tower and short January 2019 $135 calls on American Tower. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends American Tower. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2019 $80 calls on American Tower and short January 2019 $135 calls on American Tower. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.