Crown Castle, based near the Galleria, has announced it will cut its headcount by 15% (approx 750 jobs). It will also discontinue installation services as a product offering within its Tower segment. The company will incur one-time restructuring charges of approximately $70 million (mostly severance).
In addition, the company said it would consolidate office space and incur a charge of $50 million. That’s for accruing remaining lease obligations and writing off leasehold improvements. The company didn’t publicly disclose which offices were affected but an anonymous post on ‘TheLayoff.com’ stated that 13 regional offices were closing. That post also said that, if employees in those offices didn’t work for that specific region, they would have to move to Houston or leave the company.
Crown Castle has said that the mobile phone operators have slowed down tower construction activity by 50% in the second quarter as they complete the major part of their 5G investment roll-out.
The company owns and operates 40,000 large cell towers, 120,000 small cells and 85,000 miles of fiber. The company has revenues of around $7 billion, 90% of which comes from the rental of its infrastructure.
The other 10% of revenue comes from Tower Services with about 55% of that from Site preparation and 45% from installation services. It is the latter that is being discontinued. Unlike the rental business that has high margins under long-term contracts, services have lower margins (~30%) and volumes are more volatile.
Back in 2020, activist investor Elliott Management took aim at Crown Castle, believing that it had under-performed because it invested heavily in Fiber, which had a return on capital of 3%. It also said the board was too insular. At the time, 8 of the 11 non-executive directors had served for at least 13 years and included two former CEOs.
Elliott launched its campaign with great fanfare in June 2020 and Crown Castle quickly responded by replacing three of its non-execs. However, the company didn’t make any other major changes and Elliott appeared to quietly drop its campaign soon thereafter.
At that time, Crown Castle’s market capitalization was $71 billion. It is currently $47 billion. The company’s largest customer is T-Mobile. Its long-term growth prospects took a hit following the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint as the combined customer required less tower rentals.
That leads me to wonder if Elliott will come knocking on the door again, like they did recently with another Houston company, NRG. The Fiber business still earns a single digit return that is below the company’s cost of capital.
For good measure, today the company also announced two new non-exec directors. That will mean 5 out of 12 will have been appointed in the past three years.