Telcos playing a new hosting game

Contact: Ben Kolada

Datacenter operator Digital Realty Trust on Wednesday announced that it paid $80m for a three-property portfolio of datacenters from French telco Bouygues Telecom. The deal could signal yet another robust year in Internet infrastructure M&A, but also shows that telcos are playing different strategic cards in the ongoing hosting game.

Last year set a record in Internet infrastructure M&A deal volume with 110 acquisitions announced, according to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase. The record is particularly notable as it comes at a time when telcos are weighing alternative options to acquiring hosting properties. With the exception of NTT Communications, which announced three hosting acquisitions last year, telcos have largely been out of the M&A arena.

In fact, as evidenced by Bouygues’ divestiture, telcos are now considering strategies other than buying or owning high-growth hosting businesses. For example, the Digital Realty-Bouygues deal is structured as a sale-leaseback transaction, in which datacenter specialist Digital Realty will own the facilities but Bouygues will lease and operate them. Other telcos, such as Cincinnati Bell, have also decided to pass their hosting facilities on to vendors more versed in the business. Cincinnati Bell is spinning off its CyrusOne hosting unit into a publicly traded entity. CyrusOne will debut on the Nasdaq tomorrow, planning to sell 16.5 million shares $16-18 each.

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