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The Deal: American Tower Fires Back at Muddy Waters

"Would YOU hire this company to value your US$585mm acquisition?" the firm asked.

Evercore Partners analyst Jonathan Schildkrout wrote that American Tower said that the small, local firm was hired only "to stamp the transaction for the government," and that KPMG actually handled the deal. Jennifer Fritzsche of Wells Fargo Securities LLC wrote that the company likely needed approval from counsel to make the disclosure, given that it is in a quiet period ahead of its July 31 earnings report.

"The fact that AMT came out swinging hard here and given the company's strong track record, we believe this concern/worry is overdone," she wrote.

Kevin Smithen of Macquarie Capital described the concerns as "noise" in a report, and suggested that questions about a potential tower purchase may also weigh on the stock.

For example, If AT&T Inc. shopped its towers to bankroll its acquisition of Leap Wireless International Inc. or purchases in Europe, Smithen suggested that the price would come to $3.9 billion. Even at $5 billion, or 17.5 Ebitda, a purchase funded 70% by debt could be accretive to AMT. Muddy Waters listed a number of other concerns.

The firm said CEO Taiclet has sold 90% of the stock he has received from options. And the REIT will have difficulty repatriating cash, the report charges. Muddy Waters also said that American Tower has not acknowledge the potential disruption from technologies such as Wi-Fi and small cell networks that are used to increase capacity in urban and high-traffic areas.

"It is difficult to overstate the threat Wi-Fi and small cell pose to AMT's economic model," Muddy Waters stated. Morningstar's Love called the assertion "really laughable."

"We, along with sources we've spoken to in the industry, don't believe the assertion made in that report are substantiated and the market has to date treated it as a non-issue," said Love, whom Starmine and The Financial Times named the top wireless stock picker of 2012.

American Tower has addressed only the most significant of the charges in its 8k. A company representative did not respond to a query. There is plenty to discuss at its July 31 earnings call.
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