American Tower Value Stock - Dividend - Research Selection
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Description of the company
We are one of the largest global real estate investment trusts and a leading independent owner, operator and developer of multitenant communications real estate. Our primary business is the leasing of space on communications sites to wireless service providers, radio and television broadcast companies, wireless data providers, government agencies and municipalities and tenants in a number of other industries. We refer to this business as our property operations, which accounted for 99% of our total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2016. We also offer tower-related services in the United States, including site acquisition, zoning and permitting and structural analysis, which primarily support our site leasing business, including the addition of new tenants and equipment on our sites. We refer to this business as our services operations.
Our portfolio primarily consists of towers that we own and towers that we operate pursuant to long-term lease arrangements, as well as distributed antenna system (“DAS”) networks, which provide seamless coverage solutions in certain in-building and outdoor wireless environments. In addition to the communications sites in our portfolio, we manage rooftop and tower sites for property owners under various contractual arrangements. We also hold other telecommunications infrastructure and property interests that we lease to communications service providers and third-party tower operators. Our communications real estate portfolio of 144,884 communications sites, as of December 31, 2016, included 40,414 communications sites in the U.S., 57,945 communications sites in Asia, 12,861 communications sites in Europe, Middle East and Africa (“EMEA”) and 33,664 communications sites in Latin America.
American Tower Corporation was originally created as a subsidiary of American Radio Systems Corporation in 1995 and was spun off into a free-standing public company in 1998. We are a holding company and conduct our operations through our directly and indirectly owned subsidiaries and joint ventures. Our principal domestic operating subsidiaries are American Towers LLC and SpectraSite Communications, LLC. We conduct our international operations primarily through our subsidiary, American Tower International, Inc., which in turn conducts operations through its various international holding and operating subsidiaries and joint ventures.
Since inception, we have grown our communications real estate portfolio through acquisitions, long-term lease arrangements and site development. In 2016, we significantly expanded our Asia segment portfolio by acquiring a 51% controlling ownership interest in Viom Networks Limited (“Viom”), a telecommunications infrastructure company that owns and operates approximately 42,000 wireless communications towers and 200 indoor DAS networks in India (the “Viom Acquisition”). Subsequent to the closing, Viom was renamed ATC Telecom Infrastructure Private Limited (“ATC TIPL”). In 2016, we launched operations in Argentina, a new market for us. In December 2016, our newly formed joint venture in Europe entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a tower company in France, which is also a new market for us. This acquisition closed in February 2017.
We operate as a real estate investment trust for U.S. federal income tax purposes (“REIT”). Accordingly, we generally are not subject to U.S. federal income taxes on income generated by our REIT operations, including the income derived from leasing space on our towers, as we receive a dividends paid deduction for distributions to stockholders that generally offsets our income and gains. However, we remain obligated to pay U.S. federal income taxes on earnings from our domestic taxable REIT subsidiaries (“TRSs”). In addition, our international assets and operations, regardless of their designation for U.S. tax purposes, continue to be subject to taxation in the foreign jurisdictions where those assets are held or those operations are conducted.
The use of TRSs enables us to continue to engage in certain businesses while complying with REIT qualification requirements. We may, from time to time, change the election of previously designated TRSs to be included as part of the REIT. As of December 31, 2016, our REIT qualified businesses included our U.S. tower leasing business, most of our operations in Costa Rica, Germany and Mexico and a majority of our services segment and indoor DAS networks business.
We report our results in five segments – U.S. property (formerly referred to as “domestic rental and management”), Asia property, EMEA property, Latin America property (Asia property, EMEA property and Latin America property were formerly referred to as “international rental and management”) and services (formerly referred to as “network development services”).
Products and Services
Our property operations accounted for 99%, 98% and 98% of our total revenues for each of the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. Our revenue is primarily generated from tenant leases. Our tenants lease space on our communications real estate, where they install and maintain their equipment. Rental payments vary considerably depending upon numerous factors, including, but not limited to, tower location, amount, type and position of tenant equipment on the tower, ground space required by the tenant and remaining tower capacity. Our costs typically include ground rent (which is primarily fixed, with annual cost escalations) and power and fuel costs, some or all of which may be passed through to our tenants, as well as property taxes and repairs and maintenance expenses. Our property operations have generated consistent incremental growth in revenue and typically have low cash flow volatility due to the following characteristics:
• Long-term tenant leases with contractual rent escalations. In general, a tenant lease has an initial non-cancellable term of ten years with multiple renewal terms, with provisions that periodically increase the rent due under the lease, typically annually, based on a fixed escalation percentage (averaging approximately 3% in the United States) or an inflationary index in our international markets, or a combination of both. Based upon foreign currency exchange rates and the tenant leases in place as of December 31, 2016, we expect to generate over $31 billion of non-cancellable tenant lease revenue over future periods, absent the impact of straight-line lease accounting.
• Consistent demand for our sites. As a result of rapidly growing usage of wireless services and the corresponding wireless industry capital spending trends in the markets we serve, we anticipate consistent demand for our communications sites. We believe that our global asset base positions us well to benefit from the increasing proliferation of advanced wireless devices and the increasing usage of high bandwidth applications on those devices. We have the ability to add new tenants and new equipment for existing tenants on our sites, which typically results in incremental revenue and modest incremental costs. Our site portfolio and our established tenant base provide us with a solid platform for new business opportunities, which has historically resulted in consistent and predictable organic revenue growth.
• High lease renewal rates. Our tenants tend to renew leases because suitable alternative sites may not exist or be available and repositioning a site in their network may be expensive and may adversely affect the quality of their network. Historically, churn has been approximately 1% to 2% of total property revenue per year. We define churn as revenue lost when a tenant cancels or does not renew its lease or, in limited circumstances, when the lease rates on existing leases are reduced. We derive our churn rate for a given year by dividing our revenue lost on this basis by our prior year property segment revenue.
• High operating margins. Incremental operating costs associated with adding new tenants to an existing communications site are relatively minimal. Therefore, as tenants are added, the substantial majority of incremental revenue flows through to gross margin and operating profit. In addition, in many of our international markets certain expenses, such as ground rent or power and fuel costs, are reimbursed or shared by our tenant base.
• Low maintenance capital expenditures. On average, we require relatively low amounts of annual capital expenditures to maintain our communications sites.
Our property business includes the operation of communications sites, managed networks, the leasing of property interests, fiber and the provision of backup power through shared generators. Our presence in a number of markets at different relative stages of wireless development provides us with significant diversification and long-term growth potential. Our property segments accounted for the following percentage of total revenue for the years ended December 31,: