Crown Castle Grabs FiberNet

Wireless tower company Crown Castle International (CCI) said Tuesday that it will pay NextEra Energy (NEE) $1.5 billion for its FiberNet Holdings unit.

The target provides fiber services in South Florida and Texas and will boost Crown Castle's ability to implement small cells, or densely packed nodes and sensors that can augment wireless network coverage in areas where coverage by conventional wireless towers is insufficient.

"While Crown Castle's deal to acquire FiberNet is a reflection of its direct desire to broaden its small-cell assets (and thus attractiveness for new builds), the broader implications highlight the value of fiber is critical for the next wave in network technology evolution," Barclays Capital analyst Amir Rozwadowski wrote in a Tuesday report, adding that just 2% of the network footprints of Crown Castle and FiberNet overlap.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Matthew S. Heinz described the territory in Texas and South Florida as "a gateway to South/Central Americas, Mexico and the Caribbean" in a report.

Crown Castle is one of the largest wireless infrastructure companies in the U.S. Since selling its Australian unit to a private equity affiliate of Macquarie Capital for $1.6 billion last year, the Houston company has focused on domestic infrastructure. Earlier this year, Crown Castle paid Berkshire Partners $461 million for Tower Development.

Crown Castle aims to close the acquisition of FiberNet in the first half of next year.

For NextEra, meanwhile, the FiberNet announcement comes a day after it revealed it would merge with Texas Transmission Holdings for about $2.4 billion in consideration. The target's owners include Omers Private Equity and GIC.

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