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AT&T in $4.85b cellphone tower deal

NEW YORK — AT&T agreed on Sunday to lease or sell 9,700 cellphone towers to Crown Castle International, a big wireless tower operator, for $4.85 billion in cash.

Under the terms of the deal, Crown Castle will buy the rights to run 9,100 towers for an average lease of 28 years, with the right to acquire the towers outright from AT&T in the future for about $4.2 billion.

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Crown Castle will also buy about 600 towers outright.

In return, AT&T will lease network capacity from those towers for at least a decade, paying $1,900 a month per site, with rent rising by about 2 percent a year. It can add more capacity from the towers if necessary.

Investors and analysts speculate that AT&T is considering striking more deals in the near future. This summer, AT&T bought Leap Wireless, a prepaid cellphone service provider, for $1.2 billion.

And the deal is the latest by Crown Castle, which operates cellphone towers in the country’s top 100 markets and in most of Australia.

AT&T said that it doesn’t expect any effect on its financial results from the deal. Crown Castle said that the deal would add slightly to its adjusted operating income for the 2014 fiscal year.

“This deal is good for AT&T and our shareholders,” Bill Hogg, an AT&T senior vice president for network planning and engineering, said in a statement. “This deal will let us monetize our towers while giving us the ability to add capacity as we need it.”

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