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Cellnex Expects to Post Profit in Three to Four Years Time

BARCELONA, March 1 (Reuters) - Cellnex, Europe's largest mobile phone tower operator, expects to make a net profit in three or four years as the company shifts its focus away from expanding via acquisitions towards cutting debt.

The group made a net loss to 297 million euros ($314.49 million) in 2022, which was slightly higher than the average consensus of 292 million euros in a Refinitiv poll.

Chief Executive Tobias Martinez said the loss narrowed in 2022 - from 363 million euros in 2021 - due to the slower expansion rate and that the trend should continue in the subsequent years as the company focuses on the countries where it is already present.

"This should take us to a positive net result in three or four years as long as there is no operation of inorganic growth," Martinez said.

After borrowing heavily to build the largest cellphone mast network in Europe, mainly through acquisitions, Barcelona-based Cellnex in November shifted its strategy in a rising interest rate environment towards getting a credit rating upgrade.

Martinez, who will step down in June, told a news briefing the company's commitment was to achieve that upgrade by December 2024.

Martinez said the earnings showed Cellnex's capacity to generate cash as he downplayed the reported net loss, saying it was expected for a company that has invested heavily.

He said the decision for him to step down was "personal" and not the result of any pressure, saying it was the "moment to give way to a new leadership" amid the strategy shift.

Martinez said he felt supported by shareholders and did not expect any of them to leave in relation to the CEO replacement process.

The company's revenues, as well as earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), were in line with estimates.

Cellnex achieved its forecast as core earnings grew 37% to 2.6 billion euros and revenues rose 38% to 3.5 billion euros.

It expects its EBITDA to grow in 2023 to 2.9-3 billion euros and revenues to reach between 4.1 billion and 4.3 billion euros.

Cellnex's net financial debt stood at 16.9 billion euros in February, slightly lower than in its third-quarter results. It said it had available liquidity worth 4.4 billion euros in February.

The company is present in 12 European countries and controls around 110,000 masts and plans to have 20,000 more by 2030.

Its 2025 outlook remains unchanged, with EBITDA forecast to exceed 3 billion euros and revenues seen above 4 billion euros.

Cellnex shares were around 0.6% lower by 1045 GMT. They are up 14.3% year-to-date.

($1 = 0.9444 euros)

Reporting by Joan Faus; Editing by David Latona and Jane Merriman

Source: Reuters

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