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Another Canadian fund ups ante in Brazil’s telecom infra market

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Another Canadian fund ups ante in Brazil’s telecom infra market

Canadian Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) has agreed to up its share in Digital Colony’s Brazil tower infra company Highline to over 20%, adding to its previous 9.8% position.

The acquisition was submitted to authorities on March 25 and has already been approved without conditions by Brazil’s antitrust watchdog Cade, according to the agency. The value of the transaction was not disclosed.

AIMCo is the second Canadian fund to announce a significant deal in Brazil’s telecom market in recent weeks, following Quebéc pension fund CDPQ's acquisition of half of Telefônica Brasil’s fiber operation.

A source involved in the AIMCo-Highline deal told BNamericas, asking not to be named, that the move is aimed at beefing up Highline’s position and investment capacity to face off competitors in the increasingly disputed Brazilian telecom infra market.

“It is natural to seek co-investors as Highline’s businesses gain traction and volume,” the executive added.

"We are seeing a large movement of international funds and private equity in the telecoms infra market, in towers, fiber and datacenters, as operators increasingly segregate these businesses. This movement is expected to accelerate as these are operations that demand a lot of capex,” Luis Motta, KPMG’s South America partner for telecoms, tech and media, told BNamericas.

In late 2020, Highline made two new M&A moves, entering into a definitive agreement to acquire Phoenix Tower do Brasil (PTB) from funds managed by Blackstone. It also snapped up over 600 sites (towers) from Brazil's Oi for 1bn reais (US$174mn), in a deal completed last month.

In a related move, Oi accepted a 12.9bn-real binding offer from BTG Pactual for 58% of its fiber operation InfraCo, which gives BTG preferential status in an upcoming competitive process Oi will hold to sell the control of its fiber business. 

That means BTG will be allowed to top the highest bid that might be submitted for InfraCo.

But Highline is still viying for Oi's fiber assets, despite the preferential status given to BTG. AIMCo's investment, therefore, could support the Digital Colony subsidiary in a bid for InfraCo.

Highline is also considering taking part in the 5G tender in Brazil to buy spectrum blocks for small operators.

The objective is to facilitate such operators’ access to the technology, which requires large investments in both spectrum and infrastructure, Luis Minoru Shibata, Highline's director of strategy and new business, said during a recent event on small operators.

Highline would sell the structuring of the service and network operation, which is a more efficient and financially feasible model for smaller operators, Shibata added.

AIMCo

Currently, the only investment in Brazil in which AIMCo has a stake greater than 20% is in sanitation group Iguá Saneamento. AIMCo's share in Iguá, which operates water supply and sewage treatment systems, currently stands at 39% 

Last month, CPPIB, another Canadian pension fund, bought a 45% stake in Iguá for 1.18bn reais.

Worldwide, AIMCo reported US$119bn in assets under management as of December 31, 2019, the latest figure available.

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