Virgin Media O2 has unveiled a significant development in its strategic portfolio, as the company announces the sale of a 16.67 percent stake in Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure, its mobile tower joint venture. The stake will be acquired by the UK-based infrastructure fund, GLIL Infrastructure.
The transaction, valued at approximately £360 million payable in cash upon closing, marks a substantial milestone in Virgin Media O2’s financial strategy. This impressive valuation represents a multiple of 18.7 times on Cornerstone’s adjusted EBITDAaL for the year ending in March 2023. Post-transaction, Virgin Media O2 will retain a 33.33 percent stake in Cornerstone, ensuring the company maintains a significant interest in the telecom tower venture.
This sale of its telecom tower business has been structured through a holding company owned by Virgin Media O2, which itself owns 50 percent of Cornerstone shares. Following the deal, GLIL Infrastructure will possess 33.3 percent of the holding company, while Virgin Media O2 will maintain control of the remaining 66.7 percent. As the majority shareholder in the holding company, Virgin Media O2 will continue to co-control Cornerstone, alongside Vantage Towers, and consolidate Cornerstone’s financial accounts proportionally.
Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure is recognized as the largest mobile towers business in the United Kingdom. It operates a network utilized by both Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone UK as anchor tenants. Cornerstone boasts the highest network density in the UK, with a portfolio comprising approximately 20,000 sites spanning urban and rural locations.
It is important to note that this transaction will not disrupt the existing commercial network sharing agreement known as Project Beacon between Vodafone UK and Virgin Media O2. Project Beacon entails the sharing of radio equipment in designated areas of the country, ensuring uninterrupted service for customers.
Lutz Schuler, CEO of Virgin Media O2, expressed his enthusiasm for the deal, stating, “We are partially monetizing our tower infrastructure, while retaining operational and strategic co-control in a key asset as we roll out 5G to more of the country and boost 4G connectivity.”
Schuler added that this move aligns with the company’s core infrastructure and capital allocation strategy, allowing Virgin Media O2 to continue investing in expanding and upgrading its next-generation fixed and mobile footprints in the UK.
Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure was originally established in 2012 as a mobile network joint venture between Telefonica UK (now Virgin Media O2) and Vodafone UK. In 2021, Vodafone transferred its 50 percent stake to Vantage Towers, leaving Virgin Media O2 as the sole owner of the 50 percent share prior to the partial indirect stake sale to GLIL Infrastructure, as announced today.
This strategic transaction represents a significant step in Virgin Media O2’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its position in the telecommunications infrastructure landscape and its commitment to delivering cutting-edge connectivity services to the UK market.