Crown Castle International (CCI)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 27, 2011 11:00 am ET

Executives

W. Moreland - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Jay Brown - Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice President and Treasurer

Fiona McKone - Vice President of Finance

Analysts

Gray Powell - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

Jonathan Schildkraut - Evercore Partners Inc.

James Ratcliffe - Barclays Capital

Jonathan Atkin - RBC Capital Markets, LLC

Simon Flannery - Morgan Stanley

Michael Rollins - Citigroup Inc

David Barden

Brett Feldman - Deutsche Bank AG

Richard Prentiss - Raymond James & Associates

Jason Armstrong - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Presentation

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Q4 2010 earnings conference call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to Fiona McKone, VP of Finance. Please go ahead, ma'am.

Fiona McKone

Thank you. Good morning, everyone, and thank you all for joining us as we review our fourth quarter and full year 2010 results.

With me on the call this morning are Ben Moreland, Crown Castle's Chief Executive Officer; and Jay Brown, Crown Castle's Chief Financial Officer. To aid the discussion, we have posted supplemental materials in the Investors section of our website at crowncastle.com, which we will discuss throughout the call this morning.

This conference call will contain forward-looking statements and information based on management's current expectations. Although the company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, it can give no assurances that such expectations will prove to have been correct. Such forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Information about the potential factors that could affect the company's financial results is available in the press release and in the Risk Factor sections of the company's filings with the SEC. Should one or more of these or other risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary significantly from those expected. Our statements are made as of today, January 27, 2011, and we assume no obligation to update any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

In addition, today's call includes discussions of certain non-GAAP financial measures, including adjusted EBITDA, recurring cash flow and recurring cash flow per share. Tables reconciling such non-GAAP financial measures are available under the Investors section of the company's website at crowncastle.com. With that, I'll turn the call over to Jay.

Jay Brown

Thank you, Fiona, and good morning everyone. We had a great 2010 and are excited about the ongoing deployment of wireless data networks and the expected resulting benefits to our business. Let me quickly summarize some of our accomplishments and then I'll take you through some greater detail.

Throughout 2010, we consistently delivered results above our original expectations, and we ended 2010 delivering another very good quarter of results. For the full year, we posted site rental revenue growth of 10%. Site rental gross margin and services gross margin growth of 14% and 29%, respectively. Adjusted EBITDA growth is 16% and recurring cash flow per share growth of 22% compared to 2009. Each of these was considerably above our expectations as we ended 2009. In addition, we have settled all of our remaining forward starting interest rate swaps and going to 2011, positioned to continue to invest in activities we believe will enhance long-term recurring cash flow per share.

With that, let me turn to Slide 4 as I highlight some of the result for the fourth quarter and full year 2010. During fourth quarter, we generated site rental revenue of $447 million, up 11% from the fourth quarter of 2009. Site rental gross margin defined as site rental revenues less cost of operations was $325 million, up 15% from the fourth quarter of 2009.

Adjusted EBITDA for the fourth quarter of 2010 was $311 million, up 18% from the fourth quarter of 2009. It is important to note that these growth rates were achieved almost entirely through organic growth on assets we owned as of October 1, 2009, as revenue growth from acquisitions was negligible.

On Slide 5, recurring cash flow defined as adjusted EBITDA less interest expense, less sustaining capital expenditures was $176 million, up 33% from the fourth quarter of 2009. And recurring cash flow per share was $0.61, also up 33% from the fourth quarter of 2009.

Also during the fourth quarter, we invested $106 million, as illustrated on Slide 6, including $80 million on capital expenditures. These capital expenditures included $32 million on our land lease purchase program. During 2010, we extended over 1,100 land leases and purchased land beneath over 500 of our towers. As of today, we own or control for more than 20 years the land beneath towers, representing approximately 70% of our gross margin. In fact today, 34% of our site rental gross margin has generated from towers on land that we own. Further, the average term remaining on our ground leases is approximately 30 years. Having completed over 9,000 transactions, we believe this activity has resulted in the most secure land position in the industry based on land ownership and final ground lease expiration. We continue to believe that this is an important endeavor that provides a long-term benefit, as it protects our margins and controls our largest operating expense.

Of the remaining capital expenditures, we spent $9.8 million on sustaining capital expenditures and $38 million on revenue-generating capital expenditures. The latter consisting of $26.4 million on existing sites and $11.6 million on the construction of new sites. Further, during the fourth quarter, we've purchased $12.7 million of our common shares. Since 2003, we have spent $2.4 billion to purchase approximately 92.6 million of our common shares and potential shares at an average price of $25.65 per share.

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