Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

This Surprising Deal Has 2 Big Winners

By Anders Bylund – Sep 28, 2012 at 6:00PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

T-Mobile gets a much-needed cash infusion and Crown Castle grows 33% overnight at a bargain-basement price. What's not to love?

A year ago, AT&T (T -0.99%) was still trying to acquire T-Mobile USA in a blockbuster $39 billion deal. But the deal fell apart and the fourth-largest American cell network found itself being... well, still number four with little hope of ever rising higher.

So T-Mobile is scrambling to catch up with larger rivals AT&T, Verizon (VZ -1.03%), and in-betweener Sprint Nextel (S). The new plan involves "investing in areas where we anticipate the strongest return for our customers," in the words of T-Mobile USA chief John Legere. And that takes a lot of cash.

So the network has hammered out a deal with cell tower operator Crown Castle International (CCI -3.05%), where Crown Castle pays $2.4 billion up front for the right to lease the 7,200 cell towers that T-Mobile owns. As the leases expire, Crown can buy the properties outright for another $2.4 billion, spread out over the next -- yes, really -- 36 years.

The lease-to-buy option is hardly a get-rich-quick deal for T-Mobile, but the initial $2.4 billion payment can certainly help the company compete in the next-generation network wars.

It's also a good deal for Crown Castle. CEO Ben Moreland cheered the deep value he's getting, as the company is paying 9% of its enterprise value in return for a 33% expansion of its tower network. T-Mobile's towers also happen to be concentrated around metro areas, where Crown Castle needs to invest the most if it wants to stay competitive with larger rival American Tower (AMT -2.70%).

Maybe T-Mobile should have asked for a bit more cash up front, but that's nothing but nitpicking. This is a solid deal on both sides of the table.

The tower operators play a vital role in the mobile ecosystem. They've been tremendous value generators over the last five years, even if most investors tend to ignore them:

CCI data by YCharts.

But the mobile industry is packed to the rafters with surprising winners. The one ticker we've pinpointed as the most surefire bet of them all in this trillion-dollar revolution would have had you question the Fool's collective sanity just two years ago. Now, that pick doesn't look so crazy anymore.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of American Tower. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Crown Castle  Stock Quote
Crown Castle
$145.77 (-3.05%) $-4.59
Verizon Communications Stock Quote
Verizon Communications
$39.40 (-1.03%) $0.41
Sprint Stock Quote
AT&T Stock Quote
$15.93 (-0.99%) $0.16
American Tower Stock Quote
American Tower
$214.14 (-2.70%) $-5.94

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 10/05/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.